Oh my!

As we approach having drawn breath for the better part of a century and thus commensurately despair of withstanding any portion of ambiguity, our behaviour is more perspicuous; which is to say, qualified or withdrawn. The allure for example of “going out” has evaporated; its glitter is noticeably diminished by our own dissolution and burgeoning homebody characterization. Broadly speaking, convenience and comfort are the rule. Unless we’re dining in a hotel where we’re staying, we don’t dine out for dinner.  Anything after sunset is literally off the table. Driving at nighttime at our age is not recommended. Consequently our limited culinary outings now focus on breakfast, brunch or late afternoon meals. Our restaurant choices (when separated by snow or distance from our beloved golf club) are known for ready accessibility and their quality food, nothing more or less. Sometimes as a result we are bound to dine on an outdoor picnic table; or seated at a typical beanery square table with four hard chairs; on occasion perched at a luncheon counter; once under a canopy by the sea. But certainly not clothed with a waistcoat and gold watch chain while seated upon red leather before white linen and silver service. After decades of boozing and labouring 4-course meals, we find it perfectly agreeable to settle on our own gastronomic concoctions augmented by domestic familiarity. Which isn’t to say we wouldn’t do it all again if given the chance – or had we the energy and clothes that fit – but let’s face it, things have changed. Though happily not for the worse.

Breakfast on Hilton Head Island is an adventure! At times it is a dangerous one at that. Over the past many years during which we’ve billeted on the island we’ve stopped off at several restaurants, bistros and café’s which stand out. This morning we went to Sprout Momma and started with an oven-warmed (350° for 3 – 5 mins) chocolate croissant and spirited black coffee. Sprout Momma, like most of the other restaurants we frequent here, is locally owned and a family operation. While that is not always a predictable authenticity, it is undeniably so in this instance. What followed the croissant was an avocado toast with fried egg (including a variety of brioche toast).  This is a familiar recipe on the island. In fact we have experimented with the identical recipe at three of the local establishments.  All renditions are more than acceptable and I can’t say that I prefer one over the other.

Brioche French: is a bread of French origin whose high egg and butter content gives it a rich and tender crumb. Brioche is considered a Viennoiserie because it is made in the same basic way as bread but has the richer aspect of a pastry because of the addition of eggs, butter, liquid (milk, water, cream, and, sometimes, brandy) and occasionally sugar. Brioche, along with pain au lait and pain aux raisins—which are commonly eaten at breakfast or as a snack—form a leavened subgroup of Viennoiserie. Brioche is often baked with additions of fruit or chocolate chips and served on its own or as the basis of a dessert, with many regional variations in added ingredients, fillings, or toppings.

Because we have always resided in Sea Pines when visiting the island, we are particularly familiar with nearby Lowcountry Produce. They too have their own celebrated bakery starter for breakfast – glazed or cinnamon donuts! I am further advised by my partner that consumption of the sweet should precede the savoury course (though it hardly requires  social propriety for its encouragement). The granola at Lowcountry is homemade and superlative.

As for lunch or early dinner I recommend the gumbo soup at Salty Dog. It is another accident of aging that soup has become an increasingly familiar menu choice. Frankly I consider soup a very civilized addition to any meal. This was especially so when ornamented with a glass of sherry (which to this day I consider a prodigious and much underrated elixir).

The dish combines ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including African, French, Spanish, and Native American Choctaw. Gumbo may have been based on traditional native dishes, or may be a derivation of the French dish bouillabaisse, or Choctaw stew, but most likely all of these dishes contributed to the original recipe. It was first described in 1802, and was listed in various cookbooks in the latter half of the 19th century. The dish gained more widespread popularity in the 1970s, after the United States Senate dining room added it to the menu in honor of Louisiana Senator Allen Ellender. The popularity of chef Paul Prudhomme in the 1980s spurred further interest in the dish.

The name of the dish comes most likely from Africa by way of Louisiana French. Scholars and chefs have offered various explanations for the etymology of the word “gumbo”. The dish was likely named after one of its two main ingredients, okra[2] or filé. In the Bantu languages spoken by many enslaved people from Central Africa, the vegetable okra was known as ki ngombo or quingombo; the word is akin to the Umbundu ochinggômbo and the Tshiluba chinggômbô “okra”. In the language of the native Choctaw people, filé, or ground sassafras leaves, is called kombo Even today, in the Central African Republic, okra is often referred to as gombo.

If soup were not substantive enough to quell one’s appetite, I have found the conch fritters at Sea Shack incomparable. I was first introduced to conch fritters in Key West, FLA and have always associated it with being by the sea.


Sprout Momma
(843) 715-2649
93 Arrow Road Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Email: sproutmomma843@gmail.com

Lowcountry Produce
(843) 686-3003
The Shops at Sea Pines Centre
71 Lighthouse Rd Apt 510 Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Email: lowcountryproduce.com

Watusi Neighborhood Cafe
(843) 686-5200
71 Pope Avenue Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Email: watusicafe@gmail.com

Palmetto Bay Sunrise Cafe
(843) 686-3232
86 Helmsman Way Hilton Head Island, SC 29928

Salty Dog Cafe
(843) 671-2233
232 S Sea Pines Dr Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Email: saltydog.com

The Sea Shack
(843) 785-2464
6 Executive Park Rd Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Email: seashackseafood.com