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Escape to the Big Bamboo Cafe

The South Pacific may be half aglobe away from Hilton Head Island,but those looking for a tropical escapecan find it at the Big Bambooin Coligny Plaza.

Legend has it the original Big Bamboowas established by an AmericanAir Force fighter pilot on Tarawa, aneast Pacific island that offered theAllies a strategic advantage duringWorld War II.

Constructed of corrugated tin, palmfronds and bamboo, this little bar andgrill with a view of the turquoise Pacificwaters became a popular pit stop forpilots delivering cargo or refueling atthe air strip. The American food anddrinks, music and casual atmospherehelped the soldiers get away fromthe worries of war and relax amongcomrades. They say some even fakedengine trouble just as an excuse to landon Tarawa and stop at the originalBig Bamboo.

In this spirit, Hilton Head Island's BigBamboo Cafè was created. Located upstairs inColigny Plaza, right next to the beach, walkinginto the eatery is like visiting the 1940s. Thedining room is decorated with vintage photographs,World War II memorabilia, modelfighter planes and, of course, corrugated tin,bamboo and palm fronds. Live music fills theair and the menu offers a variety of colorfulAmerican dishes sure to appease any appetite.It's the kind of place that easily gains ravingfans.

"These people from New York came in fourtimes this week for our burger," said managerAlex Fernandez. "People get hooked andkeep coming back, and that's what makes usunique-the feedback we get from them."

In addition to the popular burger, the BigBamboo menu includes steaks, salads, seafoodand appetizers. The ingredients are freshand the dishes have a unique tropical flair,such as the Blackened Grouper Fillet (servedwith mango pineapple salsa) and the VolcanoShrimp (fried and coated with chili sauce andblue cheese crumbles).

They offer lunch specials, a children's menu(the unique dècor is sure to keep the kids entertained)and happy hour drink and appetizerspecials. The early bird dining special includessoup or salad, choice of entrèe, dessert anda glass of wine for $12.95. Chef Karl Lamert isplanning a special winter menu available mid-January through mid-February, and they'll beparticipating in Restaurant Week, which runsfrom January 15-22.

So what ever happened to the Big Bambooon Tarawa? According to the legend, it waswiped out by a typhoon in 1945. But the storycontinues on Hilton Head, one delicious mealat a time.