This review provided by Richard Pitman, Correspondent to The Food Channel.
Charlie’s L’etoile Verte. The name alone—which is French, meaning “the green star,” is evocative. But let’s talk about the food at this Hilton Head landmark.
Owner Charlie Golson and his family have operated the restaurant for more than 25 years, from the original single room restaurant right on Hwy 278 leading into Hilton Head, to the present low country bungalow right near Sea Pines Circle. Since the restaurant opened in 1982, it has been serving the locals and returning visitors with consistent and simple food, with European flair and Southern hospitality.
This restaurant was recommended by an Atlanta friend and is now a required stop each year in July, when we make our summer pilgrimage to Hilton Head with friends and family. This year, we were seated at the L’etoile Verte bar, with two couples from Richmond, when Charlie’s daughter, Margaret was tending bar. She not only knows the history of the restaurant, but is also a real ‘foodie” and a certified wine Sommelier. Sitting near where she was working gave me a chance to both chat with other guests and learn all about the restaurant.
Let’s start with the actual facility. Charlie’s L’etoile Verte is a wonderful old Southern house with a big porch and three large rooms for dining. The cheerful rooms are filled with a variety of antique tables and chairs, French posters and linens. The bar area has wonderful eclectic soft seating—and also houses the very extensive wine selection. The restaurant has received the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence for more than ten consecutive years. They carry more than 500 selections, specializing in California and the Rhone Valley and Bordeaux choices.
Tip: A visit on Monday nights lets you order any bottle up to $100 for half price.
Over the years the choice of good Hilton Head restaurants has grown. But none like Charlie’s. It is the only Hilton Head restaurant that writes its menu daily based on the freshest seafood available. Chef Palmer, the owner’s son, is a self-taught ‘cuisine extraordinaire.’
On to the meal itself. I started with a fabulous presentation of French Chicken Pate, for $6.50. Fresh. Rich. Fabulous. The crusty bread was even better with a smear of butter. The Richmond folks were raving about the ‘European creaminess.’
Before my dinner was served there was a fresh and very simple mixed green salad with crumbled Feta cheese tossed in a tangy balsamic dressing. For dinner I ordered the Grilled Snapper with a delectable mushroom sauce for $25. It was served and just melted in my mouth. And the side of very thinly sliced potato au’gratin had everyone asking for a second taste. In addition to all the seafood selections such as Grouper, Carolina Trout and Louisianne style Mahi, you could opt for a filet, veal tenderloins, rack of lamb or duck breast, should your taste buds not crave the sea.
Then it came time to try to say no to my sweet tooth (I didn’t succeed). The dessert selection was quite tempting. All desserts are freshly prepared and baked daily, and are priced at $7.50 each. I could not resist when Margaret recommended the creamy CrÃ¨me Carmel with fresh blackberries. The dessert plate did not have to be washed. And for those who visit in the future, they do a wonderful warm pecan pie, Southern style.
For all the years I have been going to Hilton Head and eating at Charlie’s, I have always had a wonderful meal but never had the pleasure of meeting one of the family members. For this regular guest to both the island and the restaurant, let me tell you how enjoyable it was to be served by and receive such personal attention from Margaret. If you happen to make a visit during October, Margaret will be in California picking dessert wine grapes and enjoying her passion: sipping the wine. Otherwise, be sure and ask for her by name.
Until next summer, I can only dream about my return to the island and visit to Charlie’s.
This is part of our Beyond the Plate series. View the complete series at: www.beyondtheplate.com.
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