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Lunch or dinner goes swimmingly at The Sea Shanty

The giant plastic pelican beside the frontdoor is diners' first clue that fun is in storeat The Sea Shanty. Owner Gary Williams andhis wife Kelly also worked with a friend to createthe whimsical ocean-themed paintings onthe restaurant's huge windows.

The Sea Shanty is a bright, cheerful placewhere tasty seafood is served on Styrofoamplates, and a server calls out your name whenyour food is ready. The open kitchen and seatsat the counter create a friendly atmosphere.Gary and Kelly Williams and their daughter Haleytalk easily with their customers while they work.Moving from the grill to lift a fry basket, Garymakes weekend fishing plans with a man whohas just finished a great looking shrimp burger($8.95). Kelly explains to a couple from out oftown how to get to downtown Beaufort as sherings up their check.

Daily specials are written on a chalk boardand always include several fresh fish choices.Grouper, flounder, tuna, swordfish, salmon andtilapia were options on a recent afternoon. Thoseinterested in sampling traditional local dishes canorder an appetizer of gator nuggets ($6.25) orsweet potato bites, followed by Frogmore stewor catfish stew. Williams' interpretations of theseLowcountry favorites are included in the book"Stews, Gumbos, Chilis, Chowders and Bisques,"a book of recipes by Jon Sans Colquhoun.

Soon, softshell crabs, shad and shad roe willbe on The Sea Shanty's menu. A delicacy availablestarting in late February or early March,these blue crabs have shed their hard shell. Theentire soft crab is eaten (the crabs are mostcommonly fried but are also sauteed). Shad,another culinary harbinger of spring, begin theirlives in fresh water and are related to herring.Williams prepares shad roe by pan sautèinguntil the roe forms its own gravy. Then he addsa splash of lemon juice and serves it over toastpoints, "like an open-faced sandwich," he said.

The Sea Shanty has been open about a yearand a half, and business is good. As the formerowner of The Sea Shack and Captain's Seafoodon Hilton Head Island, he bet correctly thatresidents of surrounding communities includingSun City Hilton Head and Oldfield would becomeloyal Sea Shanty customers.

The Beaufort native's friendly personality contributesto his success.

"The first time customers walk in, they're madeto feel at home. The second time, they are athome," he said.

If you've still got room, the Sea Shanty hasdelicious desserts, including homemade key limepie, macadamia nut cookies, brownie a la mode,and "whatever else comes to mind," GaryWilliams said.