October 2020

Comfort Food Crosses the Bridge: Hilton Head Island’s famed Plantation Café brings its unique charms to Bluffton.

Author: Barry Kaufman | Photographer: M.KAT Photography

To call Plantation Café and Deli an island institution would be an understatement. Since 1974, it has existed as one of those places that simply is so vital to the fabric of the community that it’s hard to picture Hilton Head Island without it.

One of the keys to that legacy is Plantation Café’s menu of homestyle favorites made right. This isn’t just what mama used to make; it’s what mama would have made if she’d had the best ingredients to work with. Some would say it’s comfort food perfected. It’s such a mouthwatering take on approachable food, it’s hardly any wonder that people would come from miles around drawn by that craving.

“For 10 years, I’ve had people coming from Sun City and all over Bluffton, leaving notes at the restaurant asking, ‘When are you going to be in Bluffton?’” owner Vic Neeley said. “It was just a matter of finding the right location.”

The problem is, 10 years ago the right location didn’t exist yet. “It’s amazing how much all of this has grown, even compared to a couple of years ago,” Neeley said, perched at a corner table in his restaurant’s gleaming new Buckwalter Place location. “This has really become the center of activity for a lot of people. It’s exciting.”

Neeley’s lengthy search for the perfect spot ended in 2018. As luck would have it, the developers at Buckwalter Place happen to be the landlords for a different restaurant Neeley owns, Savannah’s Original Pancake House.

“I saw their sign, called them up, and they said, ‘We’d love to have you up front. It would be a great fit for us.’ Things worked out really well,” Neeley said.

Really well for Neeley, but even better for those hungry patrons who had spent years driving all the way onto the island whenever they needed their comfort food fix. Opening this past August, Plantation Café’s new Bluffton location already feels like it’s always been there, much like its sister locations. The crisp white walls and industrial furnishings give it that distinctive Lowcountry look but with an approachability that matches the casual menu.

That menu, by the way, offers the same favorites that you’ll find at either of the Hilton Head Island locations. This being Bluffton, they’re also serving mouthwatering bloody marys.

“We took pretty much what we had on the island, but we thought, ‘Out here let’s kick it up a notch,” Neeley said. “Just like our other restaurants, everything that we use is the highest quality we can find, whether it’s the applewood smoked bacon in the bloody mary or the ketchup on your table.”

Commanding a prime spot in one of Bluffton’s most exciting new developments, Plantation Café’s new location is set to be for Bluffton what its sister locations are for Hilton Head Island: something more than an institution. “This is one of those locations where it opened good, but in 5,10, 15 years it will be even better,” Neeley said. 

Visit Plantation Café at 20 Discovery Drive, Bluffton, or call (843) 815-5550.

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