Hilton Head has got to be one of the more mysterious places in the U.S. Nothing reveals itself. Things are tucked back off the road, with little or no signage pointing the way. Sure, there are guide books and maps, but they are little more than surface scratchers. One has to dig, turning down this lane and that, to find anything of real interest or value. More to the point, one has to ask the locals. And the locals, nice though they are, may or may not give it up. After all, they don’t want the tourists to know, and if you’re a new resident, they may ask themselves, “Is this person going to make a commitment to the island? Are they going to last?” So, it was quite a pleasure to sit down at The Boathouse bar yesterday evening with two locals, Terri and Terri Jo, and learn a bit more about where to go, and what to do.
Looking to celebrate Darby’s birthday in high style, we had been thinking of walking across the lawn to Charlie’s Crab House. Terri and Terri Jo said, “Oh no! If you want a romantic dinner, go down the street to Old Fort Pub.” I’d not heard of Old Fort Pub before, but the ladies explained the restaurantâ€”owned by the same people that own The Boathouseâ€”had amazing views of the intercoastal waterway and fantastic food. Terri pulled out her cell phone, dialed the Old Fort Pub, explained that two new area residents were wanting to celebrate a special occasion, and asked if they might accomodate us on such late notice.
I’ve had the good fortune to dine at many great restaurants around the nation, but Old Fort Pub ranks as one of the best. Every detail was perfect. The host, our server, the bussers, the window table, the view, and the food and wine were all truly outstanding. Darby ordered medium-rare prime rib served on a bed of gorgonzola mac and cheese (a pretty down-to-earth choice for a five star chef). I had macadamia nut-encrusted Red Snapper. Both dishes were exquisitely prepared.
An interesting footnote: Old Fort Pub takes its name from the fact the Union Army occupied this spot with the landing of 13,000 troops in 1862. Eventually 50,000 Union troops were stationed on Hilton Head Island, their primary duty the blockade of Savannah, and interruption any sea-going trade between the South and England, which was a major purchaser of cotton.