Author: Courtney Hillis | Photographer: Photography by Anne
Tucked away in the back corner of Moss Creek Village (by Sears) is the culinary hidden gem, HogsHead Kitchen and Wine Bar. Named after a large wooden barrel used long ago to transport potables like wine, rum and whiskey (and occasionally foods such as sugar or flour), the restaurant captures the charm of the unique title through its modest decor. Co-owner and executive chef, John Pashak and his partner, Alexis Dunham, who have known each other since high school, designed a restaurant where people can feel relaxed and at home while enjoying upscale food at a moderate price. The couple spent seven months remodeling the space to feel “elegantly comfortable,” in Pashak’s words. The duo, along with the help of Dunham’s parents, did most of the work, including sanding and staining the floors and refinishing all of the furniture.
In addition to putting their own carpentry skills and personal touch to the space, Dunham and Pashak strive to set HogsHead Kitchen and Wine Bar apart from other restaurants by focusing on three important factors: atmosphere, food and service/staff. In fact, the staff is extremely important to Pashak, who is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Charleston and has a glowing background, including two 4-star restaurants and the Chechessee Creek Club, where he created one of the top food and beverage programs among private golf clubs in the nation. He has lived in the Lowcountry on and off for over 14 years, and when the stars aligned for the couple to open HogsHead Kitchen and Wine Bar, they knew it was meant for them.
The restaurant is separated into three spaces (bar, dining and entertainment) to help attract the desired clientele. Upon entering the restaurant, the bar is a more casual family-style area complete with two televisions and large tables constructed from hand-finished barn doors that are over 200 years old. While there are a couple of high chairs and an adorable kids’ menu designed and handwritten by John’s seven-year-old daughter, the restaurant is not so much kid-friendly as kid-tolerant.
The dining area is a bit more formal but still carries the “vintage Lowcountry” feel of the restaurant. From the arm chairs and butcher-block tables, which were also hand finished by the proprietors, to the 1930s church pew benches and mason jar lighting, this restaurant oozes casual elegance.
Furthering the appeal, wine crates adorn the walls leading to the not-to-be-overlooked elegant restrooms.
Entertainment can be found on the sizeable back deck, complete with a stage, where Acoustic Mayhem performs classic rock on Friday and Saturday nights. There may even be an occasional well-behaved pooch enjoying the al fresco seating.
Pashak draws from his French culinary training, his club experience and traditional Lowcountry cuisine to create an all-day menu that allows the customer to build a meal within his/her own price-point. For example, you can order anything from a sandwich or burger to a filet to a four course wine pairing (call ahead for the pairing). Lowcountry fare such as shrimp and grits and chicken and waffles are offered along with some twists like the “black eyed” hummus (a must try). The restaurant also offers four different specials at lunch and dinner that are more tailored to the time of day and usually include a selection of fresh fish and rarer items. Pashak is also more than happy to cater to the needs of clients who have allergies or special dietary requests. There is also a full bar and extensive wine list with the owners’ favorite vinos marked for the customers’ convenience. According to Pashak, the ultimate compliment is when chefs from other well-respected restaurants visit HogsHead Kitchen and Wine Bar with their families, which has happened quite a few times.
The final characteristic the owners focus on to set themselves apart from other dining experiences is the staff. Being “service style oriented” is very important to Pashak and Dunham, who have succeeded in creating a service environment where their customers feel like they are going to an annex of their usual club. In fact, the owners often hear diners say: “I’m going to the annex tonight,” referring to HogsHead Kitchen and Wine Bar. The friendly staff remembers repeat customers, and everyone knows everybody else, which gives the restaurant a very social atmosphere, not unlike one would find at a country club.
Pashak’s strong reputation from the Chechessee Creek Club has created quite a club following, and word of mouth is spreading quickly about this delicious culinary masterpiece. As more upscale restaurants open on the Bluffton side of the bridge, HogsHead Kitchen and Wine Bar is “turning into a little neighborhood boutique restaurant,” Pashak said. The restaurant celebrated its one-year anniversary in April and fills up quickly during peak dining times. Walk-ins are always welcome, but larger parties should definitely call ahead.
The restaurant also offers happy hour in the bar area, monthly events (like burger month) and wine dinners that are focused around specific wineries.
HogsHead Kitchen and Wine Bar is located
at 1555 Fording Island Rd., Suite D,
in the Moss Creek Village Shopping Center.
Open Monday-Saturday for lunch and dinner.
For menus and more information, visit their
newly redesigned website at hogsheadkitchen.com.