Hilton Head Seafood Festival Celebrates 10 years

Hardly a week goes by where someone doesn’t ask me about ‘foodie secrets’ in the area. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, those people that enjoy eating out regularly like to stay in the know. They want to know what is good and what is not. They want to know about new chefs, new menus, new management. I’m always glad to share what I know, but if someone is willing to dig deeper on where to find good food, many times depending on who I’m chatting with, I will point a culinary arrow at South Carolina. Bluffton’s food scene has absolutely exploded over the last few years. Hilton Head Island, of course, has had good eats for quite some time.

Andrew Carmines is owner of Hudson’s Seafood on the island. A family owned and operated restaurant on Hilton Head Island. One of the most popular “Seafood Shacks” if you will in the Low Country. Hudson’s has seemingly been around since Oglethorpe but Andrew’s family purchased it in 1975. Their reputation on the island is stellar. During high season you are going to wait for a table. Sometimes for a good while. That’s just how it is. A little over a decade ago Andrew and his family decided to put together a seafood event on the island. Something locals could rally around, help raise money for local charities and offer some great seafood in the process. That led to the creation of the Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival. By every account a successful-and growing-event that is now planning to evolve into something much bigger.

“Clayton and I had been talking about it for a couple of years.” Andrew tells me in referring to his childhood friend Clayton Rollison, owner and executive chef of Lucky Rooster on Hilton Head Island. “We wanted to bring in more outside talent and grow into more of a Southern culture and lifestyle festival.” he says. “We really don’t have any big events to celebrate our history and our culture.”

That’s about to change.

What started out as a Saturday afternoon day-long event in the park has turned into a week-long event. The 10th Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival will be very different than what it has been to this point. The calendar is dotted with culinary demos, seminars, and of course a number of opportunities to roll up your sleeves and get dirty with the freshest seafood the area can offer. “We felt like in order to bring in some talent, we needed to turned it into multiple events” Andrew says.

You can find a full list of those events at hiltonheadseafood.com. They include a great event beachfront on Thursday night at the Omni Resort and a Friday night “Pig Pickin and Oyster Roast” in Bluffton. What’s important to know, however is how much fine tuning is going into making food better on that side of the river. “A few years back, the Hilton Head Chamber of Commerce started marketing us as a culinary destination” Andrew tells me “What you are seeing in a lot of places is also happening here with food. Owners are being pushed to up their game.” Ultimately the winner there is you, the consumer.

I think it’s also important to mention what kind of seafood event the Saturday festival is. It’s held outdoors at Shelter Cove Park. Admission is $7 for adults. Kids under 10 are free. And yes, they provide plenty of fun for the kids as well. This isn’t a
‘big kid’ booze fest. Tickets for food and beverage are additional so you can sample as much or as little as you’d like without breaking the bank.

It’s not all that uncommon to get a sneer or a jeer from someone here in Savannah when I mention good food in South Carolina, but I gotten more comfortable pushing back. I know people who will drive from Richmond Hill to Tybee Island on a lazy Saturday for a good meal. I’ve heard of people driving from downtown Savannah to Darien for the same. Why the “foodie-phobia” when the Talmadge Bridge is involved? Silliness plain and simple. If you don’t know where to go, the Seafood Festival is a good place to start. Most of the islands most popular seafood restaurants will be represented. So it’s a one stop shop to try them all. I have every confidence you will Eat It and Like It.

See you on TV,

Jesse

 

 

Eat It and Like It launched in Savannah, Georgia with television personality Jesse Blanco as the host. His passion for food and travel has made Eat It and Like It a two-time EMMY nominated program about contemporary and traditional Southern food.