For longtime Lowcountry residents, diningat The Sea Shanty in Okatie brings to mindgreat meals at seafood restaurants popularon Hilton Head Island in the late 70s and early80s. Eschewing fancy decor and pretensionsof elegance, The Sea Shanty has outstandingfood and casual atmosphere galore.
As a boy, Sea Shanty chef Gary Williamshelped run one of those iconic restaurants-his family's Water-Rama restaurant in GardensCorner, just west of downtown Beaufort. TheWater-Rama had very few frills, and excellentfood. So don't expect fine china and expensivedecor at the Sea Shanty. That's not the point.The food is the point.
"Once you get our paper plate idea and ourserve-yourself idea, then you're right at home,"said Williams, who has worked as a chef inhigh-end restaurants from Florida to Michigan.
"Once they get the first forkful in theirmouth, that's it," he said.
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Since opening in August 2009, the SeaShanty has developed a following of dinersappreciative of good food at reasonableprices-including many residents of Sun CityHilton Head and nearby Oldfield. Once you'vevisited the Sea Shanty a couple of times, hewill know you by name.
"I see them drive up, and I'm already startingtheir food," said Williams of his regulars. "Iknow who my shrimp burger people are, and II know who my grouper people are."The secret to the shrimp burger is the lackof fillers, he said.
The restaurant's chalk-board menu andfolksy window paintings welcome customers,and the fresh ingredients and homemadespices and sauces-created by Williams- keepthem coming back. And if a customer wantsan entree prepared a certain way, Williams isfine with that.
"We can make it any way you want it," hesaid.
Daily lunch specials are $9.95, and dinnerspecials are $11.95. Each entree comes withtwo side items. Williams said new early birdspecials for winter are coming soon.
The Sea Shanty is known for its Caribbeanjerk grouper. Rachel Ray came to theLowcountry a few years ago and featured thisdish on her show, back when Williams stillowned his former restaurant, The Sea Shack.
Williams works side by side with his wife,Kelly, and his daughter, Haley, who owns therestaurant with him. He has plans to openanother Beaufort restaurant, along with aneatery in either Bluffton or Hilton Head, in thenext couple years.