Earning AAA's coveted four-diamond status as a restaurant reflects distinctive food, décor and personal service. Loyal patrons of the Old Fort Pub in Hilton Head Plantation know all about this, of course; that's why the 35 inside tables are full from 5 to 9 p.m. every night of the year.
But they might not know that the restaurant, which opened in 1973, has won the prestigious award for 14 consecutive years. It is also the island's only four-diamond restaurant.
"There isn't anything else like it on the island, and there really isn't anything else like it worldwide," said general manager Joanne Machala. "It's a total dining experience."
Make a reservation and then sit comfortably at a white linen-covered table, every one of which has a glorious sunset view of Skull Creek just steps away.
Or sit outside on the patio and enjoy a "great beginning" of quail or she crab soup while sipping a glass of wine from its Wine Spectator award-winning collection.
The menu shows a delectable selection of appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts, all hallmarks of renowned executive Chef Keith Josefiak's "traditional American dishes with a Southern flair," Macala said. "Southern culture is very charming, and Southern food is very unique unto itself."
Chef Keith makes sure he delivers that on every delicate white china plate, harvesting only the best South Carolina produce and local seafood, including May River oysters, and the amazing sauces and plate presentation that his pre-eminent culinary skills showcase.
Entrees range from $27 to $34, with local seafood prominent. One must-have is Old Fort's signature Sea Island Bouillabaisse, chock full of shrimp, scallops, crawfish and mussels with roasted tomatoes, Tasso ham and collards.
Machala said other favorites are the Scottish salmon, halibut, Carolina trout and marinated 1855 flat iron steak "grilled with smoky collard greens, caramelized onions, creole mustard sauce and mashed potatoes."
How about a breast of chicken in a cornbread dressing, braised short ribs with bouquetiere baby vegetables, smoked pork loin with roasted baby apples, Colorado lamb shank with a rutabaga mash, or pan-roasted duck breast with pear and red currant chutney?
For those who like to dine in the late afternoon, Old Fort Pub has an early-bird dinner for a fixed price, happy hour food and drink specials five days a week, and nightly chef specials of appetizers and entrees. Private parties can be hosted in an upstairs room that accommodates 32. Visit www.oldfortpub.com or call 843-681-2386.
Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer formerly of Bluffton