Day Trippin': We've been discussing a new feature for the Restaurant Traffic faithful called Day Trippin'. Since your humble scribes get to travel a good bit for work and for pleasure, we thought you might be interested in the delicious food we find in hovels and locales across this great Republic. We'll avoid telling you about a Jersey Mike's in Trenton or the local Chick-fil-A because nobody needs to waste another minute writing or reading about commercial chains and franchises you've eaten at time and time again. We'll also refrain from referring to ourselves as "Foodies" because that word makes us retch.
Since packing the SLR while pushing the close on a major contract is poor form, please bare with the hodgepodge of photography drawn from clandestine cell phone shots and restaurant websites we'll be using in these features. Think of it as Soft Food Porn.
So without further ado, I give you the first of our Day Trippin' features on the Santa Fe Cafe located on Hilton Head Island. There are an abundance of restaurants on Hilton Head Island but there is a shortage of decent restaurant blogs covering the Lowcountry. We were down in Hilton Head celebrating our 7th anniversary and wanted a special night out on the town. The Urban Spoon reviews and website photos for Santa Fe Cafe were too good to ignore and it turns out we made one helluva choice.
It was the best meal I've eaten in 2011.
First I fortified myself with a Cadillac Margarita. No garbage in this one. Just booze, citrus and salt.
We started off with the Queso Fundido which roughly translates to Mexican Cheese Puddle. Served hot and melty, fundido is the next logic progression for any queso fan and a mind-blower for fans of that fake cheese served with nachos at professional sporting events. The garnish of cilantro, tomato, and shredded cheese helped beef up Santa Fe's savory, soupier take on this underrepresented Mexican classic.
After much deliberation, I asked our server for her suggestion and she said the grouper is their most popular and famous item. These guys have been serving food on the island for twenty years and I didn't need to hear anything else. When on Hilton Head, do as the Blue Hairs do. The manager brought out our food and came back to check on us after we'd taken a couple bites. I couldn't stop raving and drooling about the grouper. The tender fish filet is served with this Chipotle parmesan au gratin that reminded me for some reason of a decadent crab dip. Perhaps it was the consistency or "mouth feel." Perhaps it was the Lowcountry ambiance. Perhaps it was my Cadillac Margarita which had already gone to my dome and had me thinking it was some jazzed-up polenta rather than an au gratin. The zesty cream sauce drizzled over the fish and rice and juicy summer vegetables tied the dish together and I scrapped the plate for any remaining traces of the southwestern flavors.
After our meal we lingered at our table on the rooftop cantina and watched a field of purple night chase the last light from dusk, listening to the guitarist playing traditional Mexican on his twelve string. I kept talking about the grouper that night and the next morning. Now I'm writing about it two months later. Santa Fe Cafe is pricy and if you are looking for a deal on Hilton Head, stick to the outlet malls. But the food and ambiance at this oasis of New Mexican cuisine is worth your hard-earned vacation dollars. Just be sure to make a reservation because they fill up fast and it was packed with well-heeled retirees.
Here are some of the shots I jacked from their website:
Are you a fan of other restaurants on Hilton Head? Have you been to Santa Fe Cafe? Our readers always appreciate tips and suggestions from like-minded food fans.