Boathouse II: Where Food Meets the Family for Fun!
Author: Paul deVere
Picture this. The captain of a local charter boat comes striding through the dining room and heads straight to the kitchen, carrying a freshly-caught 50-pound cobia. Restaurant guests, whether locals or island visitors, do a double take as tomorrowâs dinner passes by. While this doesnât happen every day, âWe like to let everybody see what the menu addition will be,â said Mark Gaylord, the manager at Boathouse II. âQuality doesnât get any better than that.â
Boathouse II actually does have a wholesale license to buy seafood from charter captains and gets a call from them quite often. Boathouse will also prepare fishermensâ catch and just charge them a âplate feeâ when they eat in the restaurant.
Celebrating its 20th birthday, Boathouse II has become a Hilton Head Island icon, a local and visitor favorite. Located on Skull Creek just outside the back entrance to Hilton Head Plantation, it has grown into the kind of restaurant that meets everyoneâs expectations of what a restaurant on an island, on the water, should be. Then it gets better. You might call it ârestaurant plus.â
Before checking out the âplus,â a bit of history is in order. The restaurant was originally developed by Doc Schilling and son Bill as part of the Schilling Boathouse, at the time the largest dry dock boat storage facility on Hilton Head. They named the restaurant Boathouse Grill and the bar was called the âDrunken Dolphin.â
âBut Doc Shilling put the kibosh on that right away. He didnât think it was a good idea to call anything âdrunken,ââ Gaylord explained. The bar was rechristened âMarker 13â after the Intracoastal Waterway marker that sits right offshore from the restaurant. The name stuck.
However, when The Lowrey Group purchased the restaurant from the Schillings 11 years ago, it was time for a restaurant name change. âWe thought about it and decided to follow the old superstition about bad luck when you rename a boat. Thatâs why itâs Boathouse II,â said Pierce Lowrey, founder of The Lowrey Group. âWe know we did the right thing, but still have people ask where they can find Boathouse I.â
Now for the meaning of that âplus.â The most obvious is the view. Because Skull Creek is part of the Intracoastal Waterway, restaurant guests get an eyeful of the boat traffic that ply these waters: barges, ferries, large pleasure craft heading up north in the spring or down to Florida in the fall and shrimp boats coming in after an early morning run. In the distance, across the creek, is the tranquil Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge.
Then there is the entertainment, which comes in several forms. In the summer, manatee can often be seen at neighboring Schilling Boathouse, where these giant sea mammals come to drink the fresh water pouring off the dock when boats are lifted out of the water and rinsed off. Then there is the boathouse itself, as large forklifts carry boats from dry dock and âsplashâ them into the creek.
Another plus is that boaters, who would like to drop in for lunch or dinner, can put in at Schillingâs dock for no fee. However, Gaylord suggests a call to Schillings (843-682-2628) on busy weekends.
In the evening, dinner guests seated on the large, waterfront deck are treated to live music that ranges from blues and folk to popular classics, seven nights a week. Above the stage is a life-size pirate, complete with crowâs nestâa reminder of the type of sailors who sailed Skull Creek in the 18th Century. Kids love him.
There is, of course, the sunset over Skull Creek, a most captivating, quiet natural drama that also happens, weather permitting, seven nights a week.
(Note: For those who believe outdoor dining along the Carolina coast on a summer evening is an invitation to every âno-see-um,â mosquito, and other small pest within a 50-mile radius to dine on every inch of exposed skin, Boathouse II has you covered. An environmentally-friendly misting system that wraps around the entire perimeter of the property puffs a spray of rosemary oil three times a day, creating a natural barrier.
According to Gaylord, âIt doesnât kill the insects, just lets them know they are not wanted.â)
As for the menu … âCrispy scored flounder is definitely a signature dish, along with our broiled and fried seafood platter,â said Executive Chef, Mike Cowan. Shrimp and grits is also a favorite, a truly Southern dish that is becoming a mainstay in many seafood restaurants. âAt first, people from up North question the grits part. Theyâre thinking of instant grits that are more like library paste. But our grits are coarse, stone ground, milled up in Belvedere, Tennessee. Once they try it, theyâre hooked,â Gaylord said. Guests are also partial to the restaurantâs sweet potato fries, another Southern comfort food.
Managers Ron Mildh, Mark Gaylord, Chef Michael Cowan & owner Pierce Lowrey
âOur menu is really extensive. You could have a different entrĂŠe every day of the week and have another weekâs worth left over,â said Gaylord. The restaurant is also âkid-friendlyâ with a menu to match.
One final âplusâ is the Boathouse II atmosphere. It is fast-paced, high-energy and a âlocalâ hangout all year long. Happy hour, between 4 and 7 p.m. draws a crowd, and the musicians build a good local following. In cooler weather, the actionâand foodâmove inside to a generous bar and tables throughout an enclosed porch that offers that breathtaking view.
âItâs kind of Cheers atmosphere,â said Gaylord. âWe do get to know everybodyâs name.â
397 Squire Pope Road