Scott’s Fish Market: Your Daily Dose of Yum at Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina
Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: John Brackett
In a beach resort community such as Hilton Head Island, where restaurants come and go as predictably as minivans from Ohio, the true test of an eating establishment is its staying power. Now in its twenty-seventh year under the same ownership, Scott’s Fish Market at Shelter Cove Harbour has stood the test of time and continues to meet and exceed guests’ expectations with outstanding food, friendly atmosphere and an unrivaled waterfront setting.
With one of the area’s largest outdoor dining decks and the closest water view on the island, owner Scott Allen says the location (along with consistency) is key to his success. “It gives our guests a chance to really experience the harbor, the lights at night and the stars. It’s the bread and butter of the place,” he said.
But don’t let a little thunder cloud scare you away. If the weather is less than ideal, or if you prefer the coziness of indoors, the main dining room beckons with low lights, deep woods, subtle colors and a magnificent water view from every table.
Originally known at Scott’s Harbourside, the restaurant opened as an American casual dining experience; but as Allen began to recognize that seafood was his forte, the fish market was born. Seeing a demand for fresh seafood and locally sourced ingredients, you might say he was ahead of his time. “We decided to keep things simple and put the emphasis on consistency rather than getting too high or too low,” Allen said.
The current menu includes a variety of fresh seafood prepared in different fashions—sautéed, fried, broiled, grilled, charbroiled and baked. Land lovers will appreciate the hand-cut filet mignon, chicken and pasta options. A kids’ menu is available for the little ones, making Scott’s the perfect choice for families.
“Our goal is to make sure everybody who walks in here wants to come back,” Allen said. “We rarely see someone just once.”
Associated early on with the fine dining industry, when he first started Scott’s, Allen said it was “hard to grab an identity.” The island was becoming a different kind of place—more casual and family oriented. Gone were the days when jackets were required and waiters dressed in suits.
But that’s where Allen learned the ropes. “Food and beverage, in the early days, was a means to an end. I put myself through college doing it,” Allen said. After earning a master’s degree in fine art, he was off to teach art in Florida when he took a detour via Hilton Head Island, got hooked on F&B and never looked back.
Allen worked his way up in the industry from room service waiter to bartender to dining room captain at fine dining establishments such as the Hyatt hotel, CQ’s and Fulvio’s. By 1983, he was maître d’ at Harbourmaster’s, quite possibly the most elite local restaurant of its day, and within a year was general manager, a position he held until 2002.
“The upscale experience taught me every nuance of dining, from table service to wine, to every type of preparation,” Allen said, adding that he always wanted to step out on his own and create his own concept. In a classic case of opportunity meets preparedness, he took the leap, opening Scott’s in 1988.
Allen credits the Self family and Greenwood Development Corporation for the opportunity. “The Self Family believed in me enough that they allowed me to go into partnership with them,” he said. (He has since bought them out but remains a tenant.) “Essentially, I owe my longevity here in this business to the fact that they had faith in me from the beginning.”
Allen is quick to credit his loyal staff, as well. Anthony Scott, executive chef, who began working for Allen at Harbourmaster’s, has been at Scott’s since the doors opened, as has general manager Tony Ferre. Several other staffers have more than 27 years of service at the restaurant; and sous chef Ignacio Barron has been on board since 1990. No wonder consistency is king!
Allen welcomes the new development at Shelter Cove Towne Centre. “Shelter Cove is no longer an afterthought,” he said. “But the real star is the harbor, and we’ve been a hub since its inception.”
Scott’s Fish Market is located at 17 Harbourside Ln., to the right of the Neptune statue in the Shelter Cove Harbour shops. Hours of operation are Monday-Saturday, 4:30-10 p.m., Sunday 4-9 p.m. The outside bar serves from 4-10 p.m.; live entertainment is 5:30-9:30 seven nights a week, weather permitting. For directions, more information or reservations, call (843) 785-7575 or visit online at scottsfishmarket.com for a sneak peek at the menu and more.
For a good time, call Scott’s
It’s a breezy Thursday evening in September (temps have finally dropped below 80!). A lively crowd is gathering on the deck at Scott’s Fish Market, and blenders are whirring at Harry’s Hurricane Wharf Bar. Although afternoon showers have dissipated, a few leftover sprinkles prohibit the live music tonight. But the sun peeks through and paints the sky, signaling patrons of the iconic waterfront restaurant to relax and let the good times roll.
It’s been a few years since I’ve visited Scott’s, because, quite frankly, I forgot how much fun it is to have a casual meal on the harbor. Like many locals, I had identified the Shelter Cove Harbour area primarily as a tourist destination. Now I see what I’ve been missing!
This evening starts with a friendly greeting from owner Scott Allen, whom I’ve known since the early 1980s when he was the front man at Harbourmaster’s. Offered indoor or outdoor seating, it’s a hard choice, because the interior of the restaurant is lovely, with the same spectacular view of the boats. But, as winter is coming soon enough, we opt for the outdoor experience.
After settling in under the awning on the patio, we meet our server Mike Bunch, who immediately sets us at ease. As if the surprise sunset and the gorgeous harbor view were not enough entertainment, Bunch keeps us laughing with quick quips and lighthearted humor, mixed with helpful suggestions and an eye for detail. While unobtrusive, he is most attentive. Not once do we have to flag him down for water, wine or the next course.
We enjoy a variety of appetizers, including the pristinely fresh ahi tuna sashimi and spicy Sausalito shrimp.
Delicious! I choose the Herb Parmesan Crusted Grouper as my entrée while my husband goes for the Seafood Enchilada. Both dishes are delightful in terms of both freshness and flavor. Portions are generous—I limit myself to one hot buttered roll, saving room for dessert….
To finish, we order “the best dessert in the house,” according to Bunch: the chocolate martini. It is, indeed, the perfect ending, putting an exclamation point on a delicious meal and relaxing evening.
If you’re looking for gold leaf plates, imported wine, tuxedo-clad waiters, flaming tableside desserts and a bill to match your mortgage, please don’t show up at Scott’s Fish Market and write a negative review. But when you’re ready to kick back, have some delicious cocktails and tasty food in a casual setting with live music and an awe-inspiring view, head over to Shelter Cove Harbour and join the fun at Scott’s.
Watch for fall feature nights and winter specials at scottsfishmarket.com, or give Scott a call at (843) 785-7575 to find out what’s cookin’.