Bomboras Grille & The Art Café: A Perfect Pairing
Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: M.Kat Photography
Some things are just better together: wine and cheese; bare feet and sand; children and puppies. For the Whitehead family, Bomboras Grille and The Art Café are just such a perfect pairing. This family of creative entrepreneurs has brought together their two Hilton Head Island endeavors at their new 5 Lagoon Road location, where it makes sense that Rocky and Ginny Whitehead and their three children, Stacey Whitehead (Bomboras co-owner and promoter), Brittany Scheriff (The Art Café’s studio manager) and Taylor Whitehead (Bomboras manager), have gathered under one roof to run the family businesses.
From Cincinnati, the Whiteheads were Lowcountry visitors long before they became residents—attending a professional conference which led to several family vacations, which led to purchasing a home, which led to a choosing Hilton Head Island as their fulltime home. Formerly a pharmacist and pharmacy owner, Rocky Whitehead sold the majority of his businesses and made a quick pass at retirement. Ginny Whitehead, a special education and art education teacher, wanted to own a pottery painting studio on the island. “I learned the business up north, knowing this was what I wanted to do here,” she said.
There was one pottery painting studio on the island, and when it became available in 2006, the Whiteheads purchased it. They took the business through two locations before designing the perfect space on the second floor of the building it now shares with the family’s restaurant. The winding, whimsical staircase from the foyer up to The Art Café is like a colorful portal to the imagination, where white bisque ceramics are transformed into treasures. The perpetual stream of bubbles coming from The Art Café’s balconies guides guests to this enchanting spot.
“I love that the tourists come back year after year,” Ginny said. “The children are so excited to get back, because they’re adding another thing to their collection from The Art Café.”
A Family Affair
The Whitehead family photographed in their two locations, The Art Café and Bomboras Grille. Caption for Bengals photo (from left to right): Ginny, Taylor, Stacey, Brecken, Rocky and Brittany in the bar at Bomboras.
The family’s restaurant, Bomboras Grille opened in March of 2011 in its original location just a short block away from its new home, where it is now well-guided by general manager Liam Cronin.
“I was retired for about 30 days when I realized I didn’t like myself enough to be retired,” Rocky said with a grin. Bomboras—named for a radically-large, surf-able wave that forms over an offshore reef or sandbar—has built a reputation for delicious, imaginative food, having a great bar with live entertainment nightly, and for being the best Cincinnati Bengals bar south of (and maybe even north of), well, Cincinnati.
With former NFL Hall of Famers and players, coaches, and Bengal celebrities frequenting Bomboras on game days and year-round, fans appreciate the restaurant’s new, larger bar area overseen by bar manager Ashton Hayes, a huge drop-down TV screen, and televisions inside and out, brought in for the games.
“We’re going to sell season tickets to the bar this year,” Rocky said. “People will have their name on the back of their seat. They’ll have to be here an hour before the game or the tickets will go up for sale.” All the proceeds for the season tickets will go to the Ken Anderson Foundation to benefit individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. Ken Anderson is a former Bengals player, an island resident, and game-day regular at Bomboras. The restaurant will also be hosting the college football crowd on Saturdays, taking game day through the entire weekend.
Under the direction of executive chef Javier Perez, the variety of tastes on the Bomboras menu is exceptional. Their Social Plates—some of which are half price in the bar during their daily Happy Hour—are loaded with deep flavor, and unique options. From Southern Popcorn made with fresh black-eyed peas tossed with a secret Cajun spice blend, to pulled-pork egg rolls with plum BBQ and carrot ginger dipping sauces, to crab cakes with corn salsa and lemon aioli, each item is thoughtfully made and delectable. House made soups, salads, and handhelds continue Bomboras’ attention to culinary detail, and their signature dishes, Lowcountry-oriented sides, and now famous sliders offer options to suit every taste. Anchored by their Cincinnati-based Montgomery Inn Ribs—think sticky, sweet, with a nip of vinegar—Bomboras’ Ohio Favorites menu selections include the region’s famous Big Boy Burger made with eight ounces of certified Angus beef, American cheese, shredded lettuce, pickle and tartar sauce on a locally-baked brioche bun. On game days, the menu will also feature their famous Cincinnati chili.
The Art Café always offers a limited bar and food menu served by Bomboras Grille. And, of course, Bomboras is the perfect spot before or after a visit to the painting studio…or even while waiting to paint on a busy day in The Art Café. On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, The Art Café and Bomboras co-host Kids Night Out (a.k.a. Family Date Night), where children are served an evening of painting and dinner upstairs, while parents enjoy their own date night downstairs in the restaurant. The Art Café welcomes walk-ins and delights in hosting special events from birthday parties and baby showers to holiday parties and team-building events.
“Hilton Head pulls you to it,” Rocky Whitehead said. “It really amazes me how you can get down here and it becomes home.” And like the Whitehead family and Hilton Head Island, Bomboras Grille and The Art Café are just better together.
Bomboras Grille is open every day for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., with daily Happy Hour from 4-7pm. For more information, or to make reservations (walk-ins are always welcome, too), please call (843) 689-2662 or visit bomborasgrille.com.
The Art Café is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last painter at 5 p.m.), Sundays from 12-4 p.m. (last painter at 3 p.m.), and every Tuesday and Wednesday evening for Kids Night Out starting at 6 p.m. For more information, please call (843) 785-5525 or visit artcafehhi.com.