It's easy to mistake Alligator Grille for a casual comfort-food haven with its menu of alligator gumbo, strip steaks, and sweet-potato fries. But it's the eatery's subtle, sophisticated touches that helped it earn a AAA Three Diamond award. The grills sizzle with lightly seasoned cuts of free-range chicken, filet mignon, and wild salmon, to be paired with everything from wild-mushroom risotto to stone-ground yellow cheese grits. A modest sushi selection features familiar staples while also spotlighting some unmistakably Southern ingredients; the alligator roll pairs its titular meat with sriracha sauce, and a roll of fried oysters and coleslaw takes its inspiration and name from po' boy sandwiches.
White columns and potted greenery welcome diners to the sidewalk patio, while indoors, the tiered dining room's neutral hues and crisp white tablecloths mirror the menu's casual elegance. A chef's bar invites diners to follow their meal from pan to plate as ceiling fans gently rotate overhead, circulating the servers' telepathic conversations throughout the room.
Parmesan-encrusted snapper. Hand-battered fried shrimp. One and a half pounds of steamed snow-crab legs. The culinary team at Parrot Cove Seafood Grill and Bar crafts these succulent seafood dishes from fresh catches at their waterfront restaurant on Shelter Cover Harbor. Owner Jimmy’s love of French and southern cooking is reflected in the menu featuring dinner and dessert crepes, oyster po’ boys, pulled-pork sandwiches, and half racks of ribs with housemade slaw. Meals unfold in a dining room adorned with nautical decorations and more than 40 parrots, who take forms such as paintings, statuettes, and waiters. Parrot Cove also provides spacious outdoor seating, seasonal live entertainment from local artists, and, for kids, a chance to rummage through a treasure box if they clean their plates.
Customers line up for southern-style seafood at The Sea Shack, where cravings for fried, grilled, or blackened seafood selections are made to order and then delivered to tables of Hilton Head locals and visitors. Along with seafood staples such as scallops, salmon, and flounder, The Sea Shack also serves triggerfish, frog legs, and conch fritters for adventurous diners who no longer get their kicks by eating rare steaks while suspended over shark tanks.
The Hilton Head Seafood Festival entertains guests' tongues with cuisine from 12 island restaurants, including the Black Marlin, The Crazy Crab, and L'Woods, and non-taste senses with live entertainment. Deviled crabs ($5), mini shrimp po' boys ($3), and blackened grouper fingers ($5) pair well with truffle-parmesan fries ($2) or gelato ($5), and barbecue shrimp dances onto plates to the rhythm of live music ($5).
Charlie's L'etoile Verte, lauded by The Food Channel for its "European flair and Southern hospitality," crafts a lunch menu of French-inspired fare in a quaint, cozy environment. Midday diners can bisect the day over the Waldorf chicken salad ($9.50), a veritable palate party of mingling raisins, apples, celery, pecans, and mayonnaise. Fill rumbling stomachs or sentient robots with seared and sliced duck breast ($13) crowned with a raspberry demi-glace or tuck into a spinach, crab, and brie tart ($10) hugged by a flaky pastry crust. The carefully curated wine list trumpets selections ranging from a Californian chardonnay ($11/glass) to an Italian chianti ($7.50/glass).
The culinary team at Papa's Bar-B-Que & Seafood has honed the art of slow cooking pork loin and deep-frying shrimp through four decades of practice. After opening on West Bay Street in 1972 and spending nearly 20 years at Whitemarsh Island, the eatery arrived at its current spot on Charlotte Road. Although its location has bounced around, its food hasn’t. The same pit-cooked ribs, hand-breaded chicken fingers, and blackened tilapia pile onto plates to comfort stomachs so diners don't have to tuck teddy bears into their belts.
In keeping with this spirit of humble expertise, Papa's whips up housemade banana pudding and sells its own Bar-B-Que sauce by the gallon to drench homemade ribs or fill perfume bottles. They also sell barbecued pork, gumbo, and shrimp salad by the pint or pound. In addition to their dedication to hearty comfort food, owners Frank and Judy Ouzts have shown their commitment to the community with efforts such as a charity event, featured on WSAV-TV, that celebrated the eatery’s 40th anniversary while raising money for America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia.