March 2020

The Local Catch: Island institution hits milestone as Catch 22 starts 20th year

Author: Barry Kaufman | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

On an island whose shoreline is literally defined by the tides, it seems at times that its restaurant scene moves in a similar ebb and flow. Eateries open with a flourish, then shutter after a few cycles of tourist seasons. It’s a simple fact of nature on Hilton Head Island that the circle of life keeps turning.

Because of this rhythm, when a restaurant stands tall against the crashing waves of a sometimes-fickle culinary world, it tends to stand out. When they make it five years, you take notice. At 10 years, you’re impressed. When a restaurant reaches 20 years on Hilton Head Island, you really begin to wonder what their secret is.

The good news is, Gary Duren, who owns Catch 22 along with his wife Penny, doesn’t really keep secrets.

“We’ve got a good local following, our food is very consistent and high quality and we have a really good staff that has been with us for quite a while,” he said. On paper it all sounds so simple. But executing on that trio of promises every day has been the defining factor of Catch 22.

Start with the local following. There are a handful of places you can point to on the island that are truly “local”— places where you’ll find the same crowd in the high season as you will in the shoulder season. Catch 22 is one of them (although you’ll definitely find a few more new faces in the crowd during the high season). “We know 95 percent of the people who come in here by name,” Duren said. “We have regulars who don’t even need to see a menu. It’s just, ‘Hi Larry, you having the duck?’”

Whoever you are, Larry, excellent choice. But then, pretty much everything on the menu is.

“People who know their fish know that we get some of the best,” Duren said. “And all of our steaks are USDA prime.” Fresh ingredients are just the beginning, with the multi-talented Chef Robin Van Hofen taking this fresh fish and mouth-watering steak in bold new directions that give even the most habitual regulars a chance to try something new. In addition to nightly specials, the menu is revamped with the turn of every season in order to try out new items. Worry not, they know to keep the staples on to keep the regulars happy. Larry, your duck is safe.


Gary and Penny Duren, owners of Catch 22.

Keeping the regulars happy, not to mention welcoming the horde of visitors who descend on the island every summer, isn’t just a matter of supplying the freshest, most delicious food possible. It’s about the little things.

It’s about a smile at the front door, a genuine “welcome back,” to regulars and a chance to enjoy an atmosphere built for locals.

“You can go anywhere and go to a chain-type restaurant, but we really like to interact with the guests. It makes them feel like they’re enjoying an experience rather than coming in, eating and getting out,” Duren said. On the front lines of this experience is a staff that knows the menu and the customers like the back of their hand.
“Behind the line, in the kitchen and out front, everyone is very good at what they do.”

And what they do is create a restaurant that has made the experience a priority, the food an artform and the last 20 years delicious for Hilton Head Island’s discerning locals. 

Catch 22 is located at 37 New Orleans Rd. on Hilton Head Island. For more information, visit www.catch22hhi.com or call (843) 785-6261.

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