French cafè Bistro 17 at Hilton Head Island's Shelter Cove Harbour has expanded and now serves cocktails.
"It feels like a real restaurant now," said co-owner Anna Buckingham, as she showed off the 1,000-square foot addition to the waterfront eatery's inside dining room. Heart pine floors, vintage French poster art and racks of domestic and imported wines make the dining room and bar elegant. White linen table cloths invite diners to enjoy a great meal, and cool jazz plays in the background.
Outside, the best view in town hasn't changed. Yachts bob on the harbor, and patrons linger at tables shaded by a wide blue awning, drinking in the scenery. Many twirling ceiling fans create a gentle breeze.
Anna and her husband Jim now have a license to serve martinis and other cocktails, in addition to wine and beer. Bistro 17's signature drink is the Harbour Breeze, a refreshing pink cocktail made of vodka, cranberry juice, pomegranate and a splash of soda with a twist of lime.
A cause for celebration is Jim Buckingham's return to live in the Lowcountry and run Bistro 17 full time, after completing a real estate project in California. With 38 years of local restaurant experience, he became interested in French food relatively late in his career and has enjoyed the challenge.
Classics on the dinner menu include beef bourguignon in a hearty red wine reduction ($25); duck confit in a cabernet and raspberry reduction ($26); and steak frites, a grilled ribeye with herb butter and bèarnaise sauce.
Nightly specials include fresh fish and chilled twin lobster tail entree served over an arugula salad.
For lunch, try the croque madam, a grilled ham and Swiss sandwich with bèchamel sauce ($15), or the peppered mustard salmon ($16) served over a salad of mixed greens, pine nuts, dried cranberries, Bermuda onions and gorgonzola cheese.
For patrons heading to shows at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, Bistro 17's "dine and dash" menu features a glass of house wine and two courses for $19.95 (available from 5-6:30 p.m. on performance nights).
Have breakfast at Bistro 17 to enjoy Shelter Cove Harbour when it's calm and uncrowded. Every thing on the menu is $8.50- including crepes, breakfast sandwiches and waffles.
The restaurant welcomes families and has a children's menu, which isn't French. It's full of kid standards including chicken fingers and grilled cheese sandwiches. The Buckinghams are animal lovers, and Bistro 17's patio is dog-friendly. Local animal groups and Best Friends animal sanctuary in Utah receive part of the proceeds from the sale of meals ($6) from the restaurant's Lucky Dog Cuisine menu.