A table for the ages set at the Harbour Town Grill


newsroom@islandpacket.comApril 18, 2014 

This weekend brings the last call to the Harbour Town Grill.

The cozy, clubby restaurant and bar will go away when the Harbour Town clubhouse is torn down after the 46th RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing is completed.

It opened in 1969 as the fledgling Sea Pines Co. finished clubhouse construction literally hours before the first Heritage was played over the brand new Harbour Town Golf Links.

The grill, with its views down the ninth fairway, quickly became a place where people from around the globe would return time and again.

Many of the regulars have been dropping by in recent weeks to say goodbye. One was Bill Whaley, who built the building in four months, often pushing ahead of the architect's drawings out of necessity.

He sat at the bar of a place known for its dark wood and thick steaks and hoped that its place in local lore would not be forgotten.

Earl "Happy" Mitchell, who was the head server for 25 years, said, "I really hate to see it go because it was part of a monument the Fraser family started. But you have to look further."

He then added the distinct flavor of the Gullah culture that the family of the late brothers Charles and Joe Fraser found when they developed Sea Pines: "I guess it is time for it to take a new face look."

Jeff Kruse, vice president of food and beverage at the Sea Pines Resort, said the new clubhouse will feature a restaurant and all of the golf lore that now resides in the Harbor Town Grill.

The oil paintings of past Heritage champions will get new homes. So will the collection of royal and ancient golf clubs and golf balls assembled at the request of Charles Fraser to give the clubhouse and the Heritage tournament a story line.

The grill for a while was called the Heritage Grill. It was expanded at one point to include a dining area that once was the men's locker room. Deep in its bowels, and known only to generations of grill employees, is a black metal spiral staircase used to lug food upstairs for banquets in the Heritage Room.

The grill is always bursting during the Heritage tournament, when an extra bar is set up outside on the porch. Golf fans sometimes call for a bloody Mary before longtime employees can open.

But the day-in and day-out business is fueled by the family atmosphere that the legendary Mitchell breathed into the place, according to head daytime server Chuck Foxx.

"We have customers who span generations," Foxx said. "We go through marriages, deaths, kids being born, and those kids bringing their own kids in."

For breakfast, the signature dish was named for 17-year cook Ruby Morales. "The McRuby" is bacon, ham, egg and cheese on a sourdough bun.

A popular lunch item was the turkey Reuben with cole slaw instead of sauerkraut, something originated by tennis great Stan Smith, who has represented Sea Pines almost as long as the Harbour Town Grill has.

At dinner, the people's choice was chateaubriand for two, carved tableside.

Foxx said he and other employees will move over to the new Live Oak restaurant at the Plantation Golf Club until the new clubhouse opens.

Mitchell, who retired after 45 years with the company, said he's certain he's not the only one who considered the Harbour Town Grill a home away from home.

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