April 2014

Lucky Rooster Kitchen + Bar: An American Bistro with a Southern Soul

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. | Photographer:  Stick and Move Studio

Whatever else your evening plans entail, if Lucky Rooster Kitchen & Bar is on the agenda, make sure to allow a little time to spend at the bar before sitting down to dinner. It’s all part of the experience, as much as the food. Sure, everybody knows that. Suggesting that you relax over a cocktail before dinner is not a unique idea to any particular restaurant, but…

“I care just as much about the food as I do the cocktails,” said chef/owner Clayton Rollison. “Being a good, well-rounded restaurant is like being a five-tool baseball player. You have to be able to do everything and do it well.”

You’ll find that doing it well at Lucky Rooster goes a few steps beyond simply pouring a decent drink. Rollison and his well-versed bar servers go all out to make drinks before dinner—or drinks and a few appetizers for happy hour—a memorable experience, with a little education in the art of mixology and a challenge to test your boundaries. Put another way, should Rollison or your bartender ask if you are afraid of something, tequila for example, just roll with it and let them whip up something that might change your perspective. “The moment you say you don’t like something, I want to give you exactly what you think you don’t like and change your perception,” Rollison said.

Are you a vodka drinker who shies away from gin? Do you order it the same way every time? Try a Moscow Mule: vodka, fresh lime, and ginger soda served ice cold in a copper mug. Delicious and refreshing, and its appeal will only grow as we head into the warmer weather. Then be prepared for the questions: Did you like that? Do you trust me? Then try this one. It’s somewhat similar, but made with gin. Go for it. You might be surprised.

The Lucky Rooster’s featured cocktail list is truly a survey of cocktail history. The Moscow Mule shares space with the Old Pal, El Presidente, Bobby Burns, and the Imperial Hotel Fizz among others. “They’re all classic, fun cocktails that are a little more adventurous. We think, if you’ll drink this, we can get you to try gin,” said Rollison referring to the Mule.

Taking a leap from approachable to adventurous also applies to the Lucky Rooster’s menu. While you’re testing your limits (for flavor, that is) at the bar or just sipping a craft beer or glass of wine, get your first taste of Rollison’s kitchen creations. You may decide to start with something “safe” like “Feel Good Meatballs” (who doesn’t like meatballs?), made with lamb and beef and served with aioli, sunchoke chips and herbs; or house made mozzarella with toast and winter vegetables a la grecque. Then again, the Lucky Rooster may inspire you to step out a little with veal sweet breads, made more approachable to the inexperienced served over a Caesar salad; or foie gras brûlée with rum fig compote, spicy greens and chive toast.

Likewise, the entrée menu aims to satisfy a range of tastes and moods. Feeling casual and in need of something along the comfort food lines? Try the “Lucky Burger,” made with creek stone ground beef, thick bacon, white cheddar, pickled red onions, red pepper jam, arugula, and hand cut garlic and parmesan fries.

It’s a perfect example of the Lucky Rooster presentation, something you already know prepared with unique Lucky Rooster flair that Rollison describes as an American bistro with a Southern soul. “The pork pot roast (succotash pudding, grits, corn, peppers, green beans, red onion, tomato, and pork jus), the Asian braised beef short rib (faro and vegetable stir fry, tonkatsu glaze), that’s how we bridge the gap, getting the steak and potatoes person into something a little more adventurous without freaking them out,” he said. It’s not all red meat, though. Items such as red snapper, cornmeal dusted catfish, chicken ragout, and basil farrotto help to round out the current menu, with new dishes to come on the spring menu. You can dial it up a notch for more of a fine dining experience as well. “We have enough options to do a tasting menu and blow people away with seven, eight, even ten courses,” Rollison said.

A local boy educated at the Culinary Institute of America, Rollison honed his skills at fine restaurants around the country, including the famed Gramercy Tavern, before coming home to give Hilton Head Island a comfortable, casual place where things are done with a little more finesse than more conventional casual dining restaurants and watering holes. Lucky Rooster opened in December of 2013, and Rollison has it ready for spring with a newly renovated patio set to open shortly.

Since opening, the restaurant has established a strong local clientele, ranging from young professionals to more seasoned food and wine connoisseurs, and—always a good sign—many of Rollison’s fellow foodies from around the island. Looking forward to his first tourism season, Rollison sees Lucky Rooster as one of the choices for visitors who want to go where the locals go. “My goal is that at some point during your visit you experience a taste, a smell, or a memory that you haven’t had before, or haven’t had in a long time,” he said.

Lucky Rooster is open Monday through Sunday 4 p.m. for happy hour at 5 p.m. for dinner service. The bar and raw bar will be open until midnight. Sunday brunch will begin in April. Stop in and give it a try, and, since you are certainly wondering, find out what in the world the name Lucky Rooster means. Here’s a hint: The only way to get the answer is to ask your server if you can feed the Lucky Rooster. You might be surprised by the answer.

Lucky Rooster Kitchen & Bar is located in South Island Square at 841 William Hilton Parkway, Unit A, Hilton Head Island. For more information, call (843) 681-3474, visit luckyroosterhhi.com or e-mail clayton@luckyroosterhhi.com.

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