October 2011


Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. | Photographer: Photography by Anne

When you think of local institutions on Hilton Head Island, one name that has to be at the top of the conversation is Reilley’s. You’d have to take a pretty long trip in the wayback machine—all the way to 1982—to get to a time when that name didn’t appear on the door of at least one island establishment. That was the year Tom and Diane Reilley opened a little neighborhood Irish pub in the Gallery of Shops on Greenwood Drive, just off the Sea Pines Circle.

Throughout the nearly 30 years since those humble beginnings, the Reilley family business has remained in constant motion, giving Hilton Head Island some of its favorite and most enduring food and beverage establishments, as well as two of its most beloved annual events: the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Reilley’s/ Mortgage Network Match Play Championship.

That forward motion shifted into high gear in 2005 with a major renovation to the original Reilley’s on the South End, which had moved across the street to its current location in Reilley’s Plaza in 1995 due to a fire in the Gallery of Shops. No longer the Irish pub that so many islanders had come to know, the remodel gave Reilley’s an updated look and feel and a touch of elegance. And with the structural changes came a change in attitude.

Though you can still find the friendly neighborhood tavern, step over to the dining room and you’ll find that Reilley’s Grill and Bar has quite a bit more to offer than the traditional pub fare.

“The remodel took Reilley’s in a new direction toward more of a restaurant atmosphere. It’s no longer an Irish pub serving pub food.” said chef Shawn Ross who joined the Reilleys in 2008. “When I got here sales weren’t very high for the steaks and seafood. We refined the menu so that now we offer a good mixture of cross cultural cuisine and a restaurant that delivers a great product and great service for the price point.”

One of Chef Ross’ many Culinary Creations at Reilley’s Bar & Grill

“We always had the locals for the bar business and we still do,” said manager Erin Reilley Booth, “but I see more locals here for dinner than I used to.” And that is exactly what Ross was brought in to do.

Ross brings an impressive culinary resume to the Reilley’s kitchen. Raised by his grandfather—a restaurateur and chef for over 50 years—in Oklahoma and Las Vegas, Ross took an interest in cooking very early in life. After completing his education, he entered the culinary program at Club Corporation of America (CCA), which eventually brought him to the Lowcountry.

During Ross’s time at CCA, he held the positions of fine dining chef, banquet chef, and executive sous chef with stints at the Shangri La Resort in Afton, Oklahoma and the Daufuskie Island Club. He later went on help start up the Vino and Vito market/restaurant in Bluffton, and then became the executive sous chef at the Hilton in Palmetto Dunes. Ross left the Hilton to take a position as food and beverage director at the Chechessee Club, where he remained for five years until finally joining the Reilley’s organization.

With his extensive background, Ross seemed the perfect fit to take Reilley’s from its pub food roots to a new level. Sure, you can still get some great sandwiches and burgers, but now you’ll also find dishes like herb baked Boston cod, espresso rubbed ribeye steak, and slow roasted pork shanks to name a few.

Ross has also added a new wrinkle to the dining room with a three-course menu. It’s basically a pre fixe style menu, but offers more entrée choices than a typical pre fixe. What you get is a choice of soup or salad, then you pick from a selection of entrées, of which there are 10 in contrast to the one or two on most pre fixe menus. At the end, you have a choice between a scoop of ice cream or Reilley’s house bread pudding.

Chef Ross

“It started with the pre fixe menus we were doing for the Chamber Restaurant Week,” said Booth. “It was pretty popular so we kept it going.”

“We jokingly call it our ‘stimulus plan’ because lately everybody’s looking for the deal,” added Ross, who says the Reilley’s 3 Course Menu will be updated on a seasonal basis.

Another new development springing from the Reilley’s kitchen is R&R Catering, which serves weddings, birthday parties, retirement celebrations, brunches, office meetings, cookouts…basically, “Any Occasion, Any Event” as the promotional literature says.

“Catering has always been an outlet for me. As a chef—and I’ve been a chef for a while—I like to show my creative side. We all do,” Ross said. “There are limits to what you can do creatively in a restaurant when you’re running the price points you want to run and keeping your costs where they need to be. The weddings, for example, are a way to be really creative and express yourself. That’s how the company came about. Erin, Tom and I were talking about creativity and growing the business in different ways. We realized that catering was an opportunity to do that.”

R&R catering has a 10-page menu, but Ross advises that it is more of a guideline than anything. He would rather create something totally original and unique for each event.

“If we’re doing a wedding, I’ll sit down with the bride and ask her, What do you like, what’s your thing? I don’t want to do the same thing every time,” Ross said.

From Left to Right: Jill Reilley, Tom & Diane Reilley, Erin & Jamie Booth.

With all of these changes, which Ross and Booth like to call “the other side of Reilley’s,” and perhaps more to come, at least one thing remains the same. It’s still a great neighborhood bar. The 2005 renovation enhanced it as such with a more spacious bar area inside that opens up to a large patio and outside bar. The new configuration had the effect of drawing in a new, younger, late night clientele.

“It’s been great,” said Booth. “We have DJs all summer long on Friday and Saturday nights. Once dinner’s over we call it Club R! And the deck is great for the football crowds in the fall.”

Of course, we couldn’t leave you without mentioning the 29th Annual Reilley’s/Mortgage Network Match Play Championship. The legendary golf tournament started in 1983 and now draws over 250 players from the U.S., Canada, Ireland and Scotland, probably as much for the festivities at Reilley’s Grill and Bar as for the golf! This year’s event will be held November 16-19. You can download an entry form at hiltonheadreilleys.com. If you have questions, you can send an email to RMNgolf@hargray.com, call Tom Reilley at (843) 842-4434, or just stop by Reilley’s Grill and Bar and ask around.

Reilley’s Grill and Bar is located at 7D Greenwood Drive on Hilton Head Island. For more information, call (843) 842-4414 or visit reilleyshiltonhead.com.

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