July 2010

KINGFISHER: The Restaurant That Has It All

Author: Michele Roldán-Shaw | Photographer: Photography by Anne

A diner on Hilton Head Island would expect certain things—excellent seafood, waterfront views, perhaps entertainment—but would all these things combine with affordable prices? At Kingfisher restaurant, they do.

“Families can afford to bring their kids in to eat without breaking the bank,” said Mark Stephenson, part owner of Kingfisher. “Other than the food and prices, the biggest things we have to offer are location and the fact that we have entertainment from four to six nights a week, depending on the season. There’s nowhere else on the island where you can get all four of those things in one place.”

Thus you can enjoy catch-of-the-day, filet mignon, Alaskan king crab legs, fish ’n’ chips, or all-you-can-eat pasta while listening to live music and gazing out over the placid waters around Shelter Cove. “In summer, the sun sets at about a forty-five degree angle to the windows,” said Stephenson. “Then after dark you get the lights from the other side of Broad Creek reflecting off the water. It’s absolutely a beautiful view.”

Want a little more stimulation? Kingfisher hosts plenty of live entertainment, including music and magic shows. (It’s also a great place to watch the Tuesday night firework displays that happen all summer long at Shelter Cove Harbour.) As of right now the lineup goes like this: shag act, Target the Band plays Wednesday nights; David Wingo performs classic rock on Thursdays; Friday is jazz and blues with the Earl Williams band; and on Tuesdays and Sundays Joseph the Magician performs tableside magic tricks that dazzle and awe.

The spacious restaurant has a dance floor if you just can’t sit still; but those looking for a little more intimacy will find plenty of quiet corners in the three tiers that comprise the dining area. Of course, there’s also a lounge with some great happy hour specials, and a deck on either end of the building for those occasions when the weather’s not too sweltering. Special events such as weddings and family reunions are happily accommodated in the banquet room. And although Kingfisher is generally open only for dinner, they are more than happy to host private luncheons.

Mark and his brother Todd began managing the restaurant after inheriting it from their late father, Paul Stephenson, in 2008. (Their two sisters are also part owners, though less active in the business.) All four siblings live out of state; Mark and Todd reside in Arizona and maintain that running the business from a distance confers them a unique advantage.

“We come in the door like regular patrons, and we get to taste the menu with an outsider’s perspective,” said Mark, who also owns and operates a computer and data networking business in Pheonix. “We don’t fall into habits, which is a big advantage.”

General manager, Greg Vittetoe, on the other hand, is there every day. He knows who comes to Kingfisher and why. “We have over a hundred thousand customers a year come through our doors, people from all over the country,” said Vittetoe. “Some our out-of-town regulars come in three or four times a week when they’re here.”

Vittetoe elaborates as to why people choose Kingfisher again and again. “There are over 100 full-service restaurants on Hilton Head,” he said. “They can get a good meal anywhere. But they come back to Kingfisher for the people—the staff, the musicians, the magician—the prices and the location. Our back wall is literally five feet from the water, and we have windows from floor to ceiling. It’s very casual, but the views we offer give off a fine-dining vibe. There’s no other place like it.”

Eating out might mean a lot of things—dressing up a bit (or not), a night on the town, romantic conversation, a little bit of dancing, indulging in some cocktails, and of course the fact that you don’t have to clean up. But at the end of the day, you go out to eat in order to, well…eat. The food is still the primary objective.

“We like to pride ourselves on having a really tasty menu,” said Mark. “However, we’re not resort priced. We’re affordably priced so people can get a really great meal without paying an arm and a leg. We started saying we have 15 meals under 15 dollars, but really it’s more like 20 meals. We provide casual dining in a five-star setting—it’s the best value on the island.”

The Kingfisher is located at Shelter Cove Marina. Please call ahead to make reservations at 843.785.4442 or visit them online at www.kingfisherseafood.com.

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