There’s Always Something Going on at the Salty Dog
Author: Michael Paskevich
The annual summer swarm of tourists has abated, once again, leaving Hilton Head to grateful locals and smaller throngs of visitors lucky enough to be here in fall when the weather cools and getting around town comes easy. Such changes are surely cause for cheer, and the Salty Dog Café and South Beach Marina are hosting a series of food & fun-based family events in October to celebrate the slower pace of fall.
“Once the masses retreat to the north, the locals and the fall visitors really get to enjoy the island,” said a smiling Mark Yarbrough, marketing director for the venerable Salty Dog, now entering its 26th year serving up seafood, entertainment, souvenir T-shirts and overall good times at its eateries and shops inside Sea Pines Plantation. With the change of season, these events are designed for the locals and remaining visitors, especially families and kids.
The special events are scheduled on consecutive Saturdays this month, starting with the Salty Dog’s 17th annual Oyster Roast on Oct. 5, featuring more than a ton of fresh oysters roasted over an open flame from 4 p.m. until the last delicacy is devoured. Other edibles will be available along with live entertainment, games and prizes and an appearance by “Jake,” the Salty Dog’s Flat Coat Retriever mascot and famous T-shirt fixture. Yarbrough said, “The oyster roast is probably our biggest event of the year.”
The South Beach Village’s annual Fall Fest follows on Oct. 12, starting at noon. There’ll be plenty of Salty Dog fare to sample along with retail crafts to consider. “We put up a big tent in the parking lot and we have all sorts of games and a dunking booth plus live entertainment,” Yarbrough said, “and the South Beach retail stores are out there for a sidewalk sale.” The all-day affair also includes a visit by Jake between noon and 4 p.m.
Shrimping season is in full swing, and the Salty Dog will celebrate the harvest with a Shrimp Festival and Lowcountry Boil on Oct. 19, featuring fresh local fare from 4 to 8 p.m. The festivities will feature “Boil” platters of steamed shrimp, corn on the cob and sausage along with entertainment and plenty of games and prizes for the younger set.
The Saturday before Halloween (Oct. 26) will find the marina village decorated for scares and fun for a Haunted BBQ & Costume Contest that always draws a big crowd of appropriately dressed islanders and visitors. The 4-9 p.m. event will include burgers, hot dogs and BBQ specialties and a 7 p.m. costume competition for the kids plus early trick-or-treating around the marina.
“There’s always something going on here,” Yarbrough said, “and these events are things you can do with the kids and not worry about spending a lot of money. Families can come here and eat ice cream, play in the playground and even have their faces painted.”
The Saturday celebrations are only part of the fall season at the Salty Dog, founded by low-key owner Bob Gossett. After opening the original Salty Dog Café at South Beach, his business soon expanded to shops and the adjacent Land’s Ends Tavern and Wreck of the Salty Dog restaurants that share the same essential menu focus on fresh seafood at the marina. “Bach Lobster” nights with live grand piano tunes return every Wednesday at The Wreck with complete lobster dinners ($18.99) available from 4 p.m. Diners must reserve their lobster in advance by phoning (843) 683-6472.
The enduring success of the Salty Dog remains linked to its family orientation and ongoing focus on fun and friendly pricing. “We try to give a good value on everything,” Yarbrough said, “and we don’t deal with coupons and discounts. We feel it’s better to offer a fair price to everyone.”
The Salty Dog will also plans special events in November—a “Pig Pickin’ & Lowcountry Boil on the 9th and a Thanksgiving Homecoming on the 27th—and hours of operation at its three restaurants will be adjusted as the days grow shorter. For now, however, the island fixture continues to operate at full speed for cherished locals and knowing visitors.
“Summer is great, and we’re thankful for the crowds,” Yarbrough said, “but fall is the time when we really get to enjoy all the great things our island has to offer.”
The Salty Dog Café is located at 232 S. Sea Pines Dr., Hilton Head Island, (843) 671-CAFÉ, open daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Land’s End Tavern, 671-5456, daily 4-9 p.m.; Wreck of the Salty Dog, 671-SEAS, 4-10 p.m. Tues.-Sun. For more information, visit saltydog.com.