While I would never pretend to be a food or restaurant critic, I would be remiss not to mention Sea Shack diner on Hilton Head Island. Sea Shack is a symbol of good food on Hilton Head Island; it’s a place I would never hesitate to recommend. For me it captures an essential Island experience. Granted it is not a place whose furnishings or paintings provide any promotion; nor will you gain any traction in the society column for being seen there. But it you’re hungry and dressed comfortably, you’re in the right place!
The diner is coincidentally located across the street from our estate agent’s office. Perhaps we first saw the restaurant sign when frequenting the agent’s premises. Or we may have read about the diner on the internet or in some commercial advertisement. It’s a popular place, one that boasts the approbation of the “locals”. How ever we came first to know it, I remember distinctly that our first meal there was a lunch. Indeed every time we have been there – other than this evening – was for lunch. Usually the luncheon enterprise was conjoined with the tail-end of a morning bicycle ride on the beach. Likely we exited the beach at nearby Coligny Park then cycled down Pope Avenue to Sea Shack. The diner provides indoor tables of course but more persuasively for us were the outdoor picnic tables. Dining al fresco – even on plastic plates with plastic cutlery – is always a treasure!
When we arrived for dinner shortly after five o’clock this evening we were greeted by the cashier whom we’ve come to know over the years. I am terrible at guessing anyone’s age so I’ll insulate myself from embarrassing foible by saying she is between 18 and 40 years of age. She clearly distinguishes herself intellectually, first because in spite of the hundreds of people whom she must see from day to day throughout the year, she always seems to remember us; second, she is chatty and hospitable, adding that very special ingredient to any agreeable social experience. This evening we talked briefly with her about the travails and fallout of the recent Hurricane Matthew upon the business and the people on the Island. To the enormous credit of the proprietors of Sea Shack the cashier reported that, unlike the staff at other businesses, none of them suffered any abeyance of salary during the evacuation from the Island. The disaster has otherwise unquestionably left its scar here and everyone acknowledges it could be as much as two years before the Island is fully recovered. For our part, though we initially noticed the effects of the storm, we have since numbed ourselves to the ubiquitous appearance of roadside slash. Day by day the collections diminish incrementally and almost imperceptibly.
Though we customarily haven’t much to do with anyone other than the cashier (who takes one’s order as though in a cafeteria line), we’ve communicated in a smaller way with the ladies who bring the food to the tables. Last year we regularly dealt with a woman who was of Mexican descent. In addition to her job at Sea Shack she also worked at a local yacht club (the demanding patrons of which she unhesitatingly confessed were at times a test for her). Tonight our server was a voluptuous woman with a beautiful porcelain-like face and a ready smile.
But the killer at Sea Shack is the food. Nonpareil! Nec plus ultra! Invariably I order – as I did again this evening – She Crab soup, blackened Grouper, coleslaw, lima beans and Hush Puppies. The corn bread is also divine. Every morsel was hot and delectable. Oh, and did I mention the Key Lime Pie! Whoa! What a treat! My dinner partner had a variation on the same theme and he too reported nothing but the best. I have yet to try the Conch Fritters. I am just one of those people who has learned not to derogate from what has been proven to be a good thing. One day however I’ll give them a try and I am certain I shall not be disappointed.
Thanks to the staff and the cooks! Well done!