I had no idea what to expect, actually.
A few months ago, I got an invite to attend a soft opening at a restaurant on Hilton Head Island. OK, cool. I’ll bite. I’m always interested in what is new on the restaurant scene. I was told it was called Darren Clarke’s Tavern. Fair enough, I am familiar with Darren Clarke the golfer. He’s Irish. I thought I’d be attending an event at the island’s latest run at a high-end pub. Well, I was right, but I was also wrong.
Darren Clarke’s is a steakhouse. If you ask the man in charge of operations day to day, he will tell you he wants Darren Clarke’s to be every bit the New York style steakhouse he spent 15 years in before moving to the island. Michael Doyle is a veteran of the Smith and Wollensky chain. He knows good steak. He also knows how they’d like to approach opening a ‘high-end’ steakhouse on Hilton Head Island when others have tried and failed.
For starters, over a million dollars went into a complete renovation from what was formerly Truffles on Executive Park Road. Not only did the decor get a complete overhaul, but the draft beer systems, the broilers for making the steaks and all of the bells and whistles he is accustomed to at one of the higher volume New York City steakhouses. The space is beautiful, yet warm and inviting.
In early discussions with Doyle and others, I got the impression Clarke’s would be the most expensive restaurant on the island and I immediately wondered how that would play. At the time, going into the summer, I knew the kind of clientele that is looking for something to eat a few blocks down from Coligny Plaza. They aren’t dropping $65 on a steak and then paying for sides. Won’t happen. I’ve got to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
A couple of months later, we returned for dinner and found the restaurant clicking on all cylinders for a Wednesday night. I very much enjoyed my New York Strip, my wife her filet. Sides, two of which are included for the price of the steak were good, not great. The star of the evening (after the steak of course) was the Grilled Pork Belly appetizer with Chocolate Porter Mole, pickled onions and a Toasted Coriander Crema. Absolutely delicious. The wine selection is adequate, although if you ask, you are likely to be told out some gems that don’t make it on to the list.
The biggest surprise at Clarke’s were the prices. For what you get, they offer good value. I was prepared for the price tags to be a lot higher than they were. When someone comes to Hilton Head Island talking a Smith and Wollenksy game, then you expect to pay for it. Shows Doyle and his associates have done their homework. Once the locals come out after the beach crowd is gone, they will likely be pleased with what they find.
See you on TV,