In Good Taste - An Evening At The Old Fort Pub
Author: David Tobias | Photographer: Photography by Anne
If you ask Old Fort Pub’s Chef Keith Josefiak to recommend one of his favorite dishes on the menu, he answers, “the Sea Island Bouillabaisse.” With a knowing smile, you take that information and act on it. Right?
Of course not…You order the flat iron steak and your dining partner orders the bouillabaisse. And when the food arrives, with typical Old Fort Pub elegance and subtle flair, guess what? The steak is wonderful, but the Sea Island Bouillabaisse, with its rich, sweet and light cream sauce, local collard greens swimming sweetly in the sauce just so, is to die for. While you appreciate the tender steak, you drift back to the chef’s fave, making a mental note to return soon and order it for yourself.
Part of the appeal of Old Fort Pub’s menu is the emphasis on fresh, local and organic ingredients. As Joanne Machala, general manager, points out, the perspective is true to Hilton Head Island’s history. “This whole Lowcountry area was once a rice, vegetable, fish and wild game-driven culture,” she said. “What was readily available is what locals cooked. We source the same way—it’s our baseline—oysters as well as other shellfish, fish, and vegetables such as tomatoes and corn. All of it is fresh as the seasons allow—farm to table, ocean to table. It’s another piece of our regional approach to Southern influence in the food we serve.”
Autumn Vegetables & Roots, Creamed Onions, Natural Reduction
“I love to shop locally,” Josefiak said. “I do not mind driving 20 minutes to Bluffton to shop for my own May River oysters. Besides, people from other regions of the country want to experience what we have here in the Lowcountry, and I think going and getting your own seafood and produce is part of the fun.”
Scrumptious as it all is, including the Frisee, Watercress & Radicchio Salad, the May River Oyster Gratinée and the truly (honestly) homemade ice cream for dessert, Old Fort Pub is not just about the food. It may sound cliché, but it really is about an experience you won’t find anywhere else on Hilton Head Island.
The dramatic west-facing view of the Intracoastal Waterway and Pinckney Island is one-of-a-kind. White tablecloths, gleaming china, glass and silverware add a touch of elegance, but it’s what Josefiak calls “technically correct service” that makes you feel welcomed and appreciated. The servers aim to exceed expectations, he said.
Au Poivre Style, Black Trumpets, Sun Dried Cranberry, Beurre Rouge
In existence since 1973, Old Fort Pub is nearly an institution. The restaurant was designed by artist Ralph Ballantine, under the direction of Hilton Head developer Charles Fraser, to fit into its historic environment and protect the adjacent Fort Mitchell’s earthen works. It is tied in with a system of trails and boardwalks on which guests can take self-guided tours of what was essentially a shore battery during the Civil War.
If you’re the literal sort, expecting a burgers-fries-and–beer-style “pub,” you won’t be disappointed in Old Fort Pub, but instead you will be delighted and more than pleasantly surprised. “Besides our casual outdoor patio and bar areas, we are also a very romantic restaurant,” Machala said. “There’s just something so comfortable and relaxing here that you don’t feel anywhere else.”
As frequent guest Mr. William Tuthill says, “We always feel welcomed and we keep coming back for the food, ambience and service.”
Executive Chef of the Old Fort Pub Keith Josefiak
You won’t go wrong with any of Old Fort Pub’s menu selections or additions. But take it from the chef and try the bouillabaisse. You’ll be back for more.