August 2007

Experience the Old Fort Pub

Author: Linda Hopkins

You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the Old Fort Pub. Experience is the word, because it’s much more than eating dinner or even what might be defined as “fine dining.” It’s more like a sensory thrill ride that you beg to repeat again and again.

As a 26-year Hilton Head Island resident, I confess that it had been a while since I dined at the waterfront restaurant in Hilton Head Plantation. Like many locals, I have been in a rut, visiting the same restaurants (those within a three-mile radius of my mid-island home) for a very long time, not realizing that an awesome dining experience awaited less than 10 miles north.

Setting out for the evening with my husband and mother-in-law, not really sure what to expect, I envisioned a noisy, crowded “touristy” atmosphere. I was in for a pleasant surprise. Driving up to the restaurant, my first thought was, “Wow, the parking is easy.” My second thought, “Look at those magnificent trees.” The restaurant is surrounded by live oaks, dripping with Spanish moss, gnarled by Mother Nature and Father Time, fat with Lowcountry history and unspoiled by man’s hand.

Stepping inside and ushered to a table by the window, the sun was just beginning its descent over Skull Creek. With only a few wispy clouds in sight, I knew I was in for a celestial sky painting to accompany my dinner, not to mention the expanse of calm water below, dotted by serene sailboats and graceful dolphin. The tension of the day melted away as I took in the beauty of the tasteful interior décor along with the miracles of nature before me.

Bringing me back down to earth, the host exchanged my husband’s white linen napkin for a black one to protect his dark-colored pants from any lint. He apologized for not having a coral napkin to match the color of my dress. (I can appreciate a sense of humor in a sophisticated venue. It sets the stage for a relaxing evening and a friendly rapport with the wait staff. Elegance doesn’t have to be stuffy.)

A dinner to die for
Drinks were offered and water poured as we got our first glimpse of the menu. With visions of just-caught seafood, tender pork and prime beef dancing in my head, I got sidetracked by the couple at the next table, devouring decadent-looking desserts as if there were no tomorrow. Making a mental note to save room, I forged ahead.

Exploring the wine list, I found an extensive selection, including familiar favorites along with plenty of new choices. Meanwhile, the bread basket arrived—piping hot rolls served with parsley and lavender infused butter. Who could resist?

After the waiter made a few suggestions and answered our questions, we ordered the calamari appetizer to share. If you’ve ever had tough, rubbery squid, forget about it. This was a tender, roasted (not fried) version, served in a savory sauce of sun dried tomatoes, sweet garlic and wilted greens—perfect for soaking up with more of that divine bread.

I opted for the Ahi tuna as an entrée, while my husband went for the bouillabaisse and my mother-in-law chose trigger fish. Passing forks and sharing bites, I got a taste of each. My tuna was cooked to perfection (rare, for me)—best tuna in town, hands down. The trigger fish was a crispy hit, the bouillabaisse the most flavorful I’ve had anywhere.

As a Georgia native, I appreciated the southern touch, apparent in Chef Josefiak’s creative cuisine as well as the hospitality. Ingredients such as tasso ham, collards, black-eyed peas, tomatoes and okra gave the menu a down home flavor, while international influences and gourmet preparations added just the right degree of sophistication and class.

I hate to admit it, but I failed to save room for dessert. Next time I may start with the bourbon pecan pie or cherry crème brulée.

Tiny chocolates presented at the end left a sweet taste in my mouth. As we bid goodnight to our delightful and efficient server, Fili, we promised to come again soon.

If you go:

The Old Fort Pub is located inside Hilton Head Plantation, at 65 Skull Creek Dr. Named with its neighbor in mind—Fort Mitchel, a Civil War era gun battery built by the Union Army in 1862.—the restaurant, built in 1974, was designed to mimic the architecture of the past, blending with the environment, preserving the natural surroundings and highlighting the historic landmark.

Whether you are a permanent resident, frequent visitor or first-time island guest, the Old Fort Pub is sure to become a favorite dining destination. Call for reservations and drink in a sunset tonight. Dinner nightly from 5-10 p.m.; Sunday Brunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Pub Hour, 5-6:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Old Fort Pub
5 Skull Creek Drive
Hilton Head Plantation

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