The Big Chill
Author: David Tobias | Photographer: Photography by Anne
The Big Chill—the restaurant, not the movie—is already drawing big crowds on weekends when live bands like Cranford and Sons perform. Visit the restaurant on a hot summer night, try one of the colorful, icy daiquiris—the perfect antidote for summer sweat and swelter—and you’ll discover its popularity for yourself.
Tucked away in a grove of trees on Target Road (between Palmetto Bay Road and Arrow Road), about a Tiger Woods five iron from the south end Publix and Starbucks and adjacent to Breakthrough Fitness, The Big Chill is far from the hub-bub of Coligny. In fact, it’s just around the corner from Sea Pines circle and easily accessed from the north via the Cross Island Bridge. In other words, it takes a little bit of effort to find this Hilton Head oasis. However, The Big Chill has clearly been discovered and appears to be a success.
Those who love a fascinating mix of frozen daiquiri drinks with a larger full bar, complemented by a good selection of wines, a complete menu, tapas, live music on weekends, friendly servers, and a welcoming indoor/outdoor social environment are declaring The Big Chill the newest southside hotspot. The two bars are appealing and popular with a wide range of ages, interests and tastes, especially on weekends when the place is hoppin’.
On a particular Tuesday, early in the evening, the restaurant’s director of operations, Mike Taylor, is making magic. He’s mixing “Island Punch,” one of the restaurant’s more than one dozen unique featured frozen daiquiri drinks. Using a five-gallon bucket in which he’s placed the secret ingredients, Taylor points a commercial grade mixer toward the bottom of the bucket, turns it on, and lets it roar. The irony of this process is that it takes some serious sweat equity to produce a drink that’s chill—a frozen daiquiri concoction that will find its home at the front of the bar/restaurant in a colorful, constantly churning drum to be tapped out in 16-, 20-, 32- and 44-ounce cups, like high-test slurpies that range from a potency of 10 to 1, including a non-alcoholic version.
The daiquiri drinks are also available in gallon jugs to go, for parties, as beach beverages, for boating cruises and golf outings. What better in the dog days of summer than a frozen drink with some zip?
The Big Chill is owned by a sister-brother team out of Georgia and Tennessee. It is not a franchise, but a stand-alone concept, which is not new, but a bit unusual. As their marketing consultant indicates, “This duo, who have roots in the restaurant industry, wanted to create a casual atmosphere with elegant cuisine. The appeal is casual, so you can come in in beachwear and enjoy good food, drinks with a full bar and daiquiris made fresh. There are seasonal specials, sunset drinks and discounts; for example, well drinks are $3 all day every day. The outdoor patio bar was designed to be a special retreat, especially during the dog days. And, although there’s not a connection to the movie The Big Chill, you will find the movie’s posters on the walls.”
Taylor, who’s been a Hilton Head Island area fixture since he managed Monkey Business several years ago, would even like to see Tom Berenger, who lives in Beaufort, come by sometime, to further secure the link.
“Working on it,” Taylor said.
The Big Chill is also open for lunch and the entire menu is available for takeout, including a kids’ menu with items on it like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which by popular demand have already migrated over to the regular (adult) menu.
One of the favorite dishes, getting the most comments, is an unusual treatment of a classic southern tradition: shrimp and grits. “I’m not a big fan of shrimp and grits, but I’ve never had the combination like this and I love it,” Taylor said. Instead of shrimp mixed in with traditionally prepared grits or cheese grits, this preparation and presentation features what appears to be a grits cake, infused and topped with a variety of cheeses. It’s different, but extraordinarily good.
Taylor also touts the onion rings as a specialty.
The secret to building success for The Big Chill, according to Taylor, is to understand the yin and yang of the Hilton Head Island market and how critical a local endorsement is long-term. “We all make our recommendations to guests, friends and family: places to go to golf, play tennis, shop or eat,” Taylor said, “So it’s absolutely critical that we reach out to locals, encourage them to try us and suggest us to their guests, friends and family. That’s happening, but it’s summer, when we’re also supported by those who have found us in local magazines and online. We need to communicate that this is an upbeat, casual, fun place to meet friends, get a good meal, enjoy some local bands and feel welcome.
“A lot of people come in just to look around, and end up staying two or three hours,” Taylor said. “That’s what we like to see; it means the concept is working.”
The concept is working, and not only to the public or on site but for other special events. The restaurant was selected to cater the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Class of 2012 luncheon and is available to cater events, host events, book private parties, and prepare a variety of takeout items for lunch and dinner. Versatility and customer service are of key importance.
It’s worth a look for some fabulous food and drink.
The Big Chill is located at 6 Target Rd. For more information, call (843) 715-2779 or find them on Facebook at TheBigChillBarGrill.