For longtime Lowcountry residents, dining at The Sea Shanty in Okatie brings to mind great meals at seafood restaurants popular on Hilton Head Island in the late 70s and early 80s. Eschewing fancy decor and pretensions of elegance, The Sea Shanty has outstanding food and casual atmosphere galore.
As a boy, Sea Shanty chef Gary Williams helped run one of those iconic restaurants- his family's Water-Rama restaurant in Gardens Corner, just west of downtown Beaufort. The Water-Rama had very few frills, and excellent food. So don't expect fine china and expensive decor at the Sea Shanty. That's not the point. The food is the point.
"Once you get our paper plate idea and our serve-yourself idea, then you're right at home," said Williams, who has worked as a chef in high-end restaurants from Florida to Michigan.
"Once they get the first forkful in their mouth, that's it," he said.
Since opening in August 2009, the Sea Shanty has developed a following of diners appreciative of good food at reasonable prices-including many residents of Sun City Hilton Head and nearby Oldfield. Once you've visited the Sea Shanty a couple of times, he will know you by name.
"I see them drive up, and I'm already starting their food," said Williams of his regulars. "I know who my shrimp burger people are, and I I know who my grouper people are." The secret to the shrimp burger is the lack of fillers, he said.
The restaurant's chalk-board menu and folksy window paintings welcome customers, and the fresh ingredients and homemade spices and sauces-created by Williams- keep them coming back. And if a customer wants an entree prepared a certain way, Williams is fine with that.
"We can make it any way you want it," he said.
Daily lunch specials are $9.95, and dinner specials are $11.95. Each entree comes with two side items. Williams said new early bird specials for winter are coming soon.
The Sea Shanty is known for its Caribbean jerk grouper. Rachel Ray came to the Lowcountry a few years ago and featured this dish on her show, back when Williams still owned his former restaurant, The Sea Shack.
Williams works side by side with his wife, Kelly, and his daughter, Haley, who owns the restaurant with him. He has plans to open another Beaufort restaurant, along with an eatery in either Bluffton or Hilton Head, in the next couple years.