Ask anyone who’s a come ya or a bin ya in Beaufort (if you have to ask, you are probably a come ya) about one of their favorite things about living in paradise, and you’ll often hear, “the scenery.” The pluff mud and feeding egrets and herons of the marshlands, the draping Spanish moss on centuries-old live oaks, the antebellum architecture, and so much more. And that’s especially true on a drive along Highway 21 toward Hunting Island.
As you pass through the commercialism of Lady’s Island and cross into the bucolic Lowcountry character of St. Helena Island, your blood pressure lowers, your breathing slows, and your senses are heightened. It’s a wonderful drive to explore the Gullah culture, head to the beach, or just soak up the scenery. It’s especially nice if you make a day of it and grab lunch or dinner along the way. And, while there are some great places to get a meal (looking at you, Beedos and Johnson Creek Tavern, to name just a few), we can also recommend Seaside Bar & Grill, in that we’ve bin there several times for lunch and dinner and always had a great “local” experience.
Owned and operated by Monty and Bellinda (Bell) White, two locals who were born and raised in St. Helena and Port Royal, respectively, the restaurant in the former Boondocks is an ode to the Lowcountry we love. “Our food epitomizes the spirit of the Lowcountry, creating brotherhoods over supper and invoking the nostalgia that keeps us grounded,” says Monty.
With a mix of tourists visiting the area and locals from Dataw, Fripp, Harbor Island, St. Helena, Lady’s Island, Beaufort, and beyond, the restaurant is a melting pot of diners on any given day. “There are few
things that people from such diverse backgrounds can share together,” reflects Monty. “One of them is coming together to enjoy good food and each other’s company.”
Being a chef in the Beaufort area for a long time, including his most recent post at Lady’s Island Country Club, Monty brings his many years of experience to Seaside Bar & Grill, with a focus on seafood and Southern classics like liver and onions (he still prepares it the way his grandmother did), Lowcountry boils, grilled or fried fish and shrimp, pastas and more.
As important, though, is his commitment to local ingredients. Typically, Monty sources more than 70 percent of his menu locally, including fresh seafood from Gay Seafood and Bradley’s Seafood, produce from Barefoot Farms and Dempsey Farms, pecans from local farmers and practically anything else that area fisherman and farmers can provide.
On a recent visit at a table of eight (with some of our pickier dining buddies, we might add), we enjoyed a mini bloom (basically a very sharable blooming onion) and stuffed mushrooms for the table to start. Three of the guests chose Seaside’s popular liver and onions, served with either grits or mashed potatoes and fried green beans, to rave reviews. Others went with fried shrimp or the grilled fish option. And one of us even went out on a limb with the lamb rack special, served with mint jelly, grilled asparagus and perfectly seasoned home fries.
Of the menu, Monty says that some of the most popular dishes include: the Nola pasta, featuring penne loaded with shrimp, sausage and vegetables in a Creole sauce; blackened salmon and shrimp in a Cajun Tasso cream sauce over poblano cheddar grits; and the liver and onions. But Monty’s favorite dish is the Mo-Frog-Mo, an ode to the original Frogmore address of the restaurant, which is loaded with shrimp, sausage, crab leg clusters, lobster tail, potatoes and corn swimming in “creek” butter.
For landlubbers, the menu includes Curry Creek chicken, a braised leg quarter and vegetables in a green curry sauce with rice; sirloin and ribeye steaks; veggie penne; and creative evening specials. And for the sweet tooth, the strawberry layer cake and churros do not disappoint.
The lunch menu features sandwich classics, including a roast beef melt, Southwest chicken wrap, chicken sandwiches, fish sandwiches, fried fish and shrimp baskets and burgers, along with varied salads and
Besides traditional lunch and supper stops, another great time to head out to Seaside Bar & Grill is for their sumptuous Sunday brunch. In addition to breakfast classics like three-egg omelets (our fave is the Shore-Thang, filled with shrimp, crab, herbs and cheese), pancakes in all kinds of sweet and savory flavors (try the lemon poppy seed!), cooked-your-way eggs, and all the typical sides, they also serve seriously locally-leaning, specialties like shrimp, crab or fish and grits, Benedicts (yep, they have a delectable a crabcake version), breakfast burrito and Sunday steak.
Wednesday evenings provide another great time to take a drive, thanks to their weekly Shrimp & Wing Night. With orders by the quarter pound, the shrimp comes blackened, chilled, fried, grilled or steamed. Their popular wings come by the half-dozen in six flavors ranging from barely hot to hot honey mustard, with lemon pepper and garlic parmesan in between.
The restaurant—with its authentic décor and artwork by Lisa Rivers of Legacy Gallery, and distinctive outdoor signage created by Bell—is large, with two dining rooms, a cozy bar and a full patio nestled amongst the live oaks and Spanish moss for scenery. They also have an outdoor stage for live music, karaoke, trivia and storytelling on Wednesday nights and the weekends, games like cornhole and Jenga, and a warm and welcoming fire pit for the cooler months (like right now).
When we asked Monty about his first year and whether he’d do anything differently, he said, “I wish we could have anticipated the level of support that we got from the
community. We didn’t expect the onslaught that we got, and it compromised our level of service initially.”
Our varied Seaside visits came without compromise when it came to the service…or food. With many staff members following Monty from his former restaurants, as well as Bell and several of their six children, the staff is knowledgeable, attentive and friendly. Just as Monty thinks of his staff as family, everyone seems happy to be there and treated our large table like bin ya family the last time we had supper there (which won’t be our last supper for sure).
When we chatted with Monty recently, he excitedly mentioned a new fall menu. We can’t wait to get back and check it out. They also offer catering for small businesses and at-home parties, as well as events at the restaurant for celebrations, holiday entertaining needs and more.
The next time you plan to take a leisurely drive to St. Helena Island, Hunting Island and beyond, be sure to go hungry and stop in and say hello to Monty and Bell. Tell ‘em the come yas sent you.
Seaside Bar & Grill
1760 Sea Island Parkway
St. Helena, SC 29920
Open Tuesday-Thursday 11:00am-10:00pm; Friday-Saturday 11:00am-11:00pm; Sunday 10:00am-3:00pm
Beaufort-based travel journalists Lynn and Cele Seldon (www.seldonink.com) often cover culinary travel around the world and Lowcountry Weekly lured them to write a monthly feature covering the local food scene. This includes articles about restaurants, chefs, food-focused stores, farms, farmers, farmers markets, and more. They welcome suggestions for topics.