Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: Photography by Anne
True foodies read cookbooks like novels and menus like investigative journalists. There are mysteries, intrigue, and surprise endings. If you are not a foodie, you may be scratching your head saying, there is no way that Earnest Hemingway and Julia Child could be compared as storytellers. Bear with me, because there is ample evidence to make this comparison at Catch 22 on Hilton Head Island, where the menu is filled with delightful mysteries to be uncovered and where the venue provides evenings that are comfortable and oh so wonderfully surprising.
The stories to be uncovered on the Catch 22 menu have been masterfully written by Chef Bryan Bobinchuck, and curious investigators will find delicious details about the ingredients and creativity that goes into his eclectic menu. As one of Catch 22’s four owners, Bobinchuck has created a selection of offerings that balances the sea and the land, incorporating only the absolute freshest ingredients.
The menu reveals a never-ending story of seasonality and creativity, with selections that punctuate the kitchen’s attention to quality. Imagine an entrée of bone-in filet mignon, encrusted in gorgonzola, served over herb roasted red bliss potatoes, with sautéed baby spinach and rosemary demi-glace or an appetizer of local oysters Rockefeller stuffed with applewood bacon, spinach, and onion. The lucky investigator will find the freshest produce, selected several times a week at the Columbia Farmers Market, in an heirloom baby tomato salad. Pasta with local shrimp, crab, and scallops with bucatini pasta and a lemon tarragon cream is made with seafood so fresh it was still swimming just a short time before being delivered by the fishing captains themselves.
Bobinchuck describes his relationships with his purveyors with intensity. “Whether local or from elsewhere, I only buy the crème de la crème,” he said. “I ask my purveyors, ‘Where did this come from?’ ‘Where did you get this?’ I buy everything whole, which means it’s naturally vacuum-packed. Once an ingredient is exposed to air, it blossoms and begins to show its colors immediately. If it has been processed elsewhere and travels a distance to me, it may have lost a lot of what makes it great.”
The Catch 22 pantry and refrigerator are packed with whole foods. Staples such as eggs, flour, sugar, rice, and grains are the foundation for many great dishes. Whole potatoes are peeled nightly for mashing, lettuces arrive in whole heads, and cheese comes in large wheels. Meats are hand-cut on the kitchen’s own band saw. “We do everything from scratch,” said Bobinchuck’s wife Daisy. To highlight the point, Bobinchuck disappears briefly behind the swinging door to the kitchen and bursts forth with a four-foot-long whole fresh Mahi in one hand and a wiggling live Maine lobster in the other. “This is what’s in the kitchen today,” he exclaimed. “These guys were just delivered.”
In addition to the story that Bobinchuck is writing in the kitchen, the relationships that have been developed with the Catch 22 customers are an equally important chapter to the business’s 12-year success and an acknowledgement of the skills and passion with which the remaining three partners approach their individual contributions. Gary and Penny Duren met the Bobinchucks when all four were working at Reilley’s Grill and Bar on Hilton Head Island. After working together in their various roles, the group collectively knew they had the components of a potentially great restaurant “marriage.” Gary brought with him the relationships that a successful professional golf career had provided and the restaurant business acumen needed to build a strong following for Catch 22. Penny’s expertise was with the books, and Daisy had the personality and experience to run the front end of the house.
“It’s important for a restaurant to succeed that at least one owner be there at all times,” Gary said. Catch 22 is able to achieve this because of the balance this team brings to the operation.
The partners have different roles and have even become comfortable in new ones. To complement Bobinchuck’s menu, Penny now selects all the wines for the restaurant.
“There is no pretense here. It’s very easy to like expensive wines. It’s a lot harder to find the less pricy wines that are great, said Penny, who does a lot of blind tasting to find what she likes.
According to Daisy, “Penny pays attention. We have great house wines and it’s all due to Penny’s ability to find wine that tastes good. She’s always on-trend.”
The wine list changes almost every month, and the real magic happens when Bobinchuck creates a pairing menu. When Bobinchuck started out as a chef, an early mentor told him he had a very good palate, and it is never more apparent than in these specials. “Brian tastes the wine and then decides what sauce to pair with it, not the other way around,” Daisy said. The results are unique meals with surprising and delicious flavor combinations.
Another integral chapter to the Catch 22 story is the family of customers the restaurant has built. The owners think of “locals” beyond year-round Lowcountry residents. Many repeat visitors visit the restaurant each year, and these folks can count on being remembered and treated like local family.
“We have customers who visit the island the same week every year, and they never miss coming in,” Daisy said. “We have one group of ten who come together on the island from all over the United States. This year was their tenth anniversary coming to Catch 22, and the really cool thing was it was also the tenth anniversary of them being waited on by Josh.” The team also says that often visitors discover Catch 22 for the first time and say they wish they had found it sooner in their visit; others come back two or three times in one week.
The Catch 22 owners and their staff take a genuine interest in their customer’s lives. “Of course we have a lot of celebrations here, but there are times when we are asked to do things out of the ordinary, or we simply choose to do something special for a customer. One of our customers is in the hospital right now, and we’re bringing him food. If someone passes away, we make something and take it over. That’s how close a relationship we have with our customers,” Daisy said.
Catch 22 recently joined the Kiwanis Club to reach out further to the local community. The restaurant also participates in charity events, helping to raise money for various causes. Donating wine and tapas pairing parties or multi-course dinners to silent auctions, the restaurant has helped raise a great deal of money for local charities.
Like the unfolding of a great mystery, it all comes together at Catch 22. “We work well together. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We’re patient with each other,” Daisy said. A delicious story is being told and comfortable evenings are passed where locals and visitors feel surprisingly at home.
Catch 22 is located at 37 New Orleans Road in Orleans Plaza on Hilton Head Island and is open seven nights a week at 5 p.m. Catch 22 can also help with your catering needs at your home or office, on your boat, or even an oyster roast on the beach; the restaurant has a private dining room that seats up to 50 guests. For reservations or more information, call (843) 785-6261.