Skillets: From Day to Night
Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: Photography by Anne
There is a sparkle in Amie Baima’s eyes as she talks about the changes that have been made to the menu at her Coligny Plaza restaurant, Skillets Grill & Café. Change and creativity are the cornerstones of this dynamic islander’s approach to her ever-evolving life as a restaurateur, and now there are even more reasons to visit Skillets for breakfast, lunch, dinner and more. An expanded appetizer menu is a tasty target aimed at bridging the hours between lunch and dinner, and a pancake and waffle bar concept has been incorporated into the breakfast offerings. Amie has other tantalizing ideas percolating and is looking forward to bringing some of them to fruition.
An island resident since 1977, when the only grocery on the island was Coligny Plaza’s Red & White, Amie has worked in the business for as long as she can remember and knew she wanted to own and operate her own restaurant from the beginning. Having successfully owned Coligny Bakery and Just Pasta, two island favorites for many years, Skillets Grill & Café, opened in 1993, and is the culmination of her innate assets of optimism, creativity, and drive.
Along the way, Amie has experienced a few lumps in the gravy. However, she has learned to access her assets and use them to her advantage. In the early years she took some flak from her chefs because they questioned her credibility. “Chefs used to say, ‘What do you know; you’re not a chef?’” Amie said. Despite years of experience, a degree in food science, and possessing that elusive quality of just knowing how to make it work, Amie knew she wanted to quell the naysayers, so she went back to school and got a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University.
One of her greatest obstacles turned out to be a fire that caused the restaurant to close for three years between 2002 and 2005. Like great barbeque rising from the ashes, Amie sold her other interests and focused solely on reopening Skillets in a beautifully expanded new way. She also knew it was the right time to add dinner to their already popular breakfast and lunch menus. Seven years later, Skillets is welcoming and always creative, because Amie is continually evaluating how she can improve not only her menu, but also how to serve her customers better. “Last weekend we had 1,000 customers, and if 1 percent were unhappy, that could ruin your entire day. I have to remind myself that I made 990 customers happy and keep working to improve,” Amie said. “I measure my success by the personality of the customers, and this year folks have been very pleasant. People seem to be happy to be on vacation and want to enjoy each other.” They couldn’t find a better place than
Skillets to do just that, and the latest changes to the menu make that even easier.
Noshing and nibbling is a favored pastime for visitors and islanders, and Skillets is continuously open with offerings to satisfy any hunger. From sumptuous breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare, to their new appetizer menu, kids’ menu, early dining options, and a full-service bar, Skillets creatively manages to appeal to all tastes. With porch seating, Amie even appeals to the tastes of the canine persuasion by offering full water bowls and four doggie entrées by local pet food company Lucky Dog Cuisine.
The latest additions to the Skillets Grill & Café appetizer menu make it an even more enticing drop-by neighborhood eatery. That in-between hunger is perfectly sated at Skillets. “If you’re coming off the golf course, you’re ending your beach day or the kids are starting to whine, and you want a little something to hold you over until dinner, come in and order one of our appetizers, choose a few things from the kids menu, or build a salad at the best salad bar on the island,” Amie said.
Mouth-watering is an understatement when I think about my two favorites: fried dill pickle chips with ranch and key lime vinaigrette, a perfect four-way stop at the corner of sour and sweet and crunchy and refreshing; and beer batter fried grouper with spicy Southern tartar sauce, an outstanding sophisticated nod to fish sticks from another era.
With continuous service from early morning to late evening, it is a fun endeavor to travel across the menu and sample from each inspired section. The newest breakfast option is an innovative approach to the possibilities of pancakes and waffles. This is the ultimate in having it your way. “You pick your pancakes or your waffles, you pick your toppings, and then you enjoy it exactly how you like it,” said Amie. Toppings include fruits, chocolate chips, nuts and cream, eggs and meats. This, in addition to a complete breakfast menu satisfies on every level, including Skillets’ famous skillet breakfast combinations, crepes, benedicts, and omelets. I intend to make a visit to try the new pancake-waffle concept, but in the meantime, I still would battle sandstorms to get to Skillets’ stuffed French toast with the sweet and surprising apricot and cream cheese filling.
Lunch and dinner provide just as many opportunities to try familiar comfort food that has been elevated by innovative tweaks by Amie and her staff. From a variety of sandwiches and burgers offered with to-die-for homemade potato chips, French fries, coleslaw, or potato salad, to fresh salads, seafood, meats, chicken, pastas, stir fry, desserts, a well-selected wine menu, and full bar, nothing is forgotten on Skillets’ menu. Bucking the a la carte trend, Skillets also happily includes a fresh salad and roll with all dinner entrées.
Amie’s culinary inspiration comes from many sources, one of which is her dad. Her mother and father join her in the restaurant for the summer season to help with all aspects of the business, but the best contribution may be her dad’s homemade soups. Delicious and creative, the collaboration begins at Amie’s home, “Dad and I will make something at home and then we’ll bring it in and make it for the restaurant. He made minestrone today,” Amie said, with a hint of pride and a lot of love in her voice.
Ever dynamic and creative, Amie is always reaching in new directions. Her latest inspiration is Gourmet Burger Wednesday. Tempting combinations are being formulated and will soon be making taste buds dance. She also recently began a 12-part series of appearances on local television station WHHI’s The Restaurant Show, hosted by celebrity chef, and long-time colleague and friend, Orchid Paulmeier.
Amie shares recipes and stories and continues to expand her reach. Whether you visit Skillets for an in-between nosh, a light meal, or a full feast, you will find Amie reaching toward you with delicious food and a welcoming spirit, inviting you to stop by any time and enjoy.
Skillets Grill & Café offers live entertainment.
Sunday days and evenings: David Wingo
Tuesday and Wednesday evenings: David Bohn
Thursday and Saturday evenings: Joe Vickers
Skillets Grill & Café is located at 1 North Forest Beach Drive, Hilton Head Island in Coligny Plaza, serving continuously, 7 days a week from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Please visit online at skilletscafe.com.