Chef & I presents...

Parrot Cove

If you've ever heard the Kenny Chesney song, "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem" you know what Parrot Cove Grill & Bar is all about. Relaxed and laid back is their motto. They live by that mantra (in spirit, mind you, as you do actually have to wear shoes and a shirt). One step inside and your stresses disappear. Owner Jimmy Ligette would have it no other way. Parrot Cove is where the locals go, where everyone is welcome, including kids-his ad even reads "Kid-Friendly."

Now, I've been writing The Chef & I for over a year, and I have yet to take my 5- and 7-year olds along. Usually I visit the upper echelon of restaurants, where wine and 5-star dining are the norm. So Parrot Cove excited me and my boys, Drew and Will. They dressed up "fancy" (as they call it) and we headed out for Shelter Cove Marina-with me giving dining lessons on the way. As we live in Bluffton, this equated to 20 minutes of etiquette lessons (Ms. Manners would be proud) by the time we got there.
Upon arrival, I realized my worries were for naught-Jimmy's wife, Boodle (her nickname "for life") greeted us in jeans and a t-shirt, and told us to choose whatever table we liked. Picking out a corner booth (to keep the kids trapped), we settled in for dinner. And then it happened-our kids, who normally are an afterthought at most restaurants, took center stage. But in a good way-not a Chuck E. Cheese, over the top way. Boodle brought them pages of pirates and parrots to color, as well as an overflowing can of crayons. She then told them if they ate all their food, they'd get to pick a treasure out of the treasure chest-that got their attention. The boys quickly made their selections, then busied themselves with coloring. For once, Mark and I looked at the menu uninterrupted.
Speaking of the menu, Parrot Cove offers something for everyone. From seafood to steak, they've got it. Jimmy, along with Chef William Finch has put together a menu that would leave even a seasoned diner impressed. While Parrot Cove may be laid back in attitude, the food is another matter. William's offerings are straight up fantastic. Beneath his relaxed demeanor is a seriously talented chef.

William's beginnings as a chef came at an early age. His mom was a great "from scratch" cook. With nine (yes, nine) children to feed, she had to be resourceful. He remembers her making everything from scratch, and being the baby of the family, William was always at her side. His love of cooking and creating took root, and his path was formed. His love of art and a need to be creative is at the heart of everything he does. His background includes experience at great restaurants, including Harry Carey's in Chicago, and some local ones as well (he opened Aunt Chilada's here on Hilton Head). He even did a stint at Loyola University, cooking for a Jesuit priest-where everything had to be made from scratch. Thanks, Mom!

A desire for more opportunities brought him to Hilton Head, and a chance interview with Jimmy two years ago changed his destiny. Jimmy appreciated William's eclectic style, and hired him on the spot. The two are comfortable with each other, and their camaraderie shows in the food. Relaxed, but 5-star at the same time, Parrot Cove really is the perfect blend-a great local hangout the tourists love, which serves up fabulous food with a fun side, a place that's great for adults and kids too.
Our dinner started with warm, soft bread and honey butter. The kids picked out the Captain's grilled cheese and fries and Pirate's pasta with marinara, and we chose Filet Mignon with BÈarnaise Sauce and the Seafood Platter. When choosing the Seafood Platter, you have a choice of two items, or "The Works," which is flounder, scallops, oysters, and shrimp. I went for The Works (upon Boodle's recommendation). Both entrees come with fresh steamed veggies, a baked potato and what they call a "small side salad". Here, the menu lies-the salad was neither small, nor just a side. All the dressings are made from scratch, and the Ranch was the best I've tasted.

Speaking of things not so small, the dinners at Parrot Cove definitely have a jaw-dropping effect. Huge portions and simple presentations left us speechless. But the best was yet to come-one taste of William's talent and we knew why the locals go here to eat. Mark's steak was tender and perfectly cooked. My seafood was delicately fried and light, without a hint of being greasy. And the homemade cocktail sauce had the perfect amount of kick. Will's pasta was plentiful, and Drew couldn't stop raving about the fries ("These are the most awesome fries ever!"). First time Drew ever finished everything on his plate. Look out treasure chest, here we come.

All in all, Parrot Cove is one of my favorites so far. Great for kids and adults alike. My kids were entertained and happy, and that makes for a better dinner for everyone. Several groups of adults sat around us, and I don't think they even noticed our kids (that's a first).

So the next time you want to kick back and forget your cares, head over to Parrot Cove. The chorus of Kenny Chesney's song says it best, "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem. Blues, what blues? Hey, I've forgot 'em." I wonder if he wrote that after a visit to Parrot Cove???

Just the Facts.

Hours: 11 am - 10 pm daily
8:30 am - 11 pm daily starting in March
(awesome breakfast menu!)
Specials: Daily
Reservations: Recommended
Location: Shelter Cove Marina
(843) 341-3500

Cheesy Southern Grits and Shrimp

2 cups stone ground grits
5 cups chicken stock
2 tsps. Black pepper
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Mix all ingredients together (except cheese).  Cook and stir constantly over medium heat.  When thickened, remove from heat and add cheese.  Stir until melted.

Bacon Brown Gravy & Shrimp:
 large yellow onion, diced
1 lb. bacon, diced
1 cup roux
 gallon beef stock, heated
Black pepper to taste
2 lbs. peeled, deveined shrimp
Serves 8-12 people.

Saute onions and bacon until rendered. Stir in roux, then add beef stock and pepper. Cook until thickened. Remove from heat. Saute shrimp (tails off) in 2 tbsps. butter. When halfway cooked, add bacon brown gravy and turn on low, stirring often. Spoon grits in bowls, pour shrimp sauce on top, serve with warm biscuits.

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