January 2018

Santa Fe Café: Something’s New Under the Stars

Author: Kitty Bartell

I find it exciting that there are still people who don’t know about us and what we do,” said Marshall Sampson, co-owner of Santa Fe Café, the iconic Hilton Head Island restaurant where islanders and visitors have found the true tastes of the American Southwest for nearly 25 years. Sampson and partner Sean Crosby worked at SFC for several years before purchasing the business 10 years ago. “The first year I worked here I told the owner I wanted to buy it,” Sampson said. The partners each have their niche, with Sampson running the front of the house, and Crosby behind the scenes, focused on the food.

In addition to their exceptional cuisine, the furnishings and fixtures are as much a part of the experience as is the food, and Sampson and Crosby focus their attention on the décor during an annual refresh. Just after Thanksgiving, SFC closes for a few days or weeks to paint, varnish, redecorate, and sometimes renovate. This year, the aim was a major renovation to their Rooftop Cantina. “It’s our most popular spot throughout the year,” Sampson said. “You can sit outside almost all year and enjoy our ranchero, Gypsy Kings-style guitar player, Raymundo Elias, who has a great following and fits us very well.”

This year, in addition to touch-ups throughout the restaurant, and a complete refinishing of the main floor bar and all the table tops, the entire cantina space was gutted, redesigned, and rebuilt, with the help of restaurant regulars who were selected to be a part of the project. “There are a lot of people I would like to credit with this,” Sampson said. “Bob and Mary Slack [Creative Structures, Inc.] are my general contractors; Stacy Peacock and Amanda Costa are doing all our flooring; Mark Brummer is our architect; and Dorsey Smith is doing the interior design.”

With a refurbishing of the kiva fireplace, small-plank, wood-look, tile flooring, and a brand-new, white pine, custom-designed bar, the space is now plumb for having a drink and enjoying some appetizers. “We’re going to have lounge seating in the covered area with more heaters,” Sampson said. “The bar is going to be a beautiful setting for our liquor and wine. It’s also going to have an awesome centerpiece that we found at a craft show in Florida. It’s a huge metal cow skull. I walked past it, turned back, and knew it was meant to be.” And the starry view supplied by Mother Nature isn’t bad either.

Discovering Santa Fe Café, guests will be pleasantly surprised by the variety of flavors and heat (so many options for heating-it-up or cooling-it-down), their creative menu, accessible pricing (lunch is quite a bargain—try the redfish tacos), and authentic Southwest atmosphere. And now, a new comfortable cantina. Hurra…vámonos!

Santa Fe Café is located at 807 William Hilton Parkway, #700, Hilton Head Island. For more information, or to make reservations, please visit santafehhi.com or call (843) 785-3838.

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