June 2020

21 Faces of Lowcountry Hospitality: Tom Reilley

Author: Special to CH2 | Photographer: M.KAT Photography

Tom Reilley
The CRAB Group

On several evenings a week, you’ll find Tom Reilley seated at the bar, chatting with his guests at Reilley’s South near the Sea Pines Circle. Credited with starting the Hilton Head Island St. Patrick’s Parade and kicking off the local hospitality empire that has become the CRAB Group (Coastal Restaurants and Bars), there are few men more beloved by islanders and visitors alike.

When did you move to Hilton Head Island, and who or what brought you here?
I moved here February 1, 1977. My sister lived here, and I was fed up with the northeast and the weather, so we came down. That’s the Cliff’s Notes version. The next time you see me at Reilley’s, ask me the real story about how I kidnapped my wife and drove her here after telling her we were going to a movie. Literally kidnapped.

What do you love about living here?
Just look outside: the weather, the people. It’s just a very calming place to be.

When did you start building the empire that has become the CRAB Group?
Oh, I think I get a little too much credit for that. Reilley’s opened in 1982 after I borrowed money from two of my customers. Shortly thereafter, we formed a partnership and started The Crazy Crab. So, we had two Reilley’s, two Crazy Crabs, and they were all operated separately. After my son Brendan went to the Culinary Institute of Americaand got into the business, he opened Fish Camp, and we were off and running.

If you could advise our visitors to do one thing, what would it be?
Enjoy what we have here. Don’t bring anything with you that’s going to keep you from having a good time. This is a fun place to be!

When you aren’t at Reilley’s greeting your guests, what are you doing?
I have a very limited life outside of this restaurant. I love being here, and my office is right around the corner. When I’m not here, however, I do enjoy being on the golf course.

Favorite annual island event or festival?
The St. Patrick’s Day parade is huge; Hilton Head Wine and Food Festival is huge; Wingfest is huge … but nothing beats the RBC Heritage. That tournament is such an asset to our island, and I think we are an asset to the tournament as well.

What is your go-to on the Reilley’s menu?
My go-to is the Rub Ribeye, but it’s tough to pick out just one thing. I’m very proud to say that whatever you order here, you are going to get a good meal.

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