During our trip to Hilton Head, we were continually looking for good seafood places along or near the water. I'm not quite sure how we happened upon The Black Marlin Bayside Grill, but I'm certainly glad we found it.
The Black Marlin is located at the Palmetto Bay Marina on Hilton Head Island (see map). I have to tell you up front, it's rather difficult to find if you don't know exactly where to turn, or if your Hertz Neverlost has you trying to turn left onto a road where there is no left turn. We had to drive across the causeway that goes over Broad Creek - pay a $1.75 both ways - to get back over to the area where we knew The Black Marlin was situated. We finally were able to find the road - a right turn, that took you to two successive left turns, that took you under the causeway bridge along the water front up to the parking lot of the Palmetto Bay Marina. The parking lot was packed because there were some other restaurants in the area. I let Cindy out at the front of the building and found a parking spot toward the back.
We had our choice of eating indoors or outside. We initially opted for inside dining until I got a look at the patio seating outside. The Black Marlin was, indeed, a classy place and their outdoor seating featured heavy duty glass-topped metal tables with heavy metal woven chairs. Each table had their own umbrella and there were tiki torches around perimeter to keep the mosquitoes away. Our hostess took us outside and sat us at a table that, unfortunately, was near the air conditioning unit for a condo that bordered the patio. It was a little loud, to say the least. I asked Cindy if she wanted to go inside and she said, "Ah, this is fine. We can just talk a little louder."
Our waitress came to the table and got our drink order - my Bacardi Limon and lemonade (yes, they had real lemonade - I asked before I ordered!), and Cindy got a glass of their house chardonnay. We immediately ordered up a dozen oysters on the half-shell and a pound of cold peel and eat shrimp. The waitress said, "Is that all you'll want, then?"
I said, "No, no. We're going to order dinner. That's just our appetizer."
She sort of chuckled and said, "Well, OK, then..."
Actually, I saw they had fish tacos on the menu and I thought I'd just get a couple of those ala carte after the oysters and shrimp. Cindy was intrigued with their special "catch of the day" - a red snapper "mojo de ajo" (roasted garlic and chipotle peppers cooked in lime juice and olive oil), and also topped with broiled shrimp and chunks of fresh garlic. Well, Cindy does jumping jacks for garlic anything, so she had to have that.
Our waitress came out with our order of peel and eat shrimp and our oysters on the half shell. They don't season the shrimp at The Black Marlin with cajun seasoning like they do at many of the other places we'd had shrimp at while on vacation. But the shrimp was still very good - large and meaty. I eagerly devoured a large portion of the shrimp while helping Cindy peel the shells off of hers. (I'm such a good husband.)
Here is a picture of our oysters. They were big and plump, good and meaty. They served them with cocktail sauce, so I asked the girl for fresh ground horseradish and some Tabasco. She seemed a little surprised. "Oh," she exclaimed. "They didn't put a horseradish container on the tray. I'll go get y'all one right away." And she was back in about 30 seconds with the horseradish. She said, "I took off with the tray before they realized that it didn't have the horseradish on it. They came looking for me and caught me just inside the door." We had great service at The Black Marlin Bayside Grill.
We finished up our shrimps and oysters and Cindy really wanted the red snapper topped with "mojo de ajo" (roasted garlic and chipotle peppers, diced and cooked in lime juice and olive oil) and grilled shrimp special. I ordered up a couple fish tacos. We sat and enjoyed the evening, even though the air conditioning unit ran non-stop while we were there.
Our dinner showed up about 15 to 20 minutes after we ordered. I have to say that Cindy's red snapper with the mojo de ajo with the grilled shrimp on top looked unbelievable. It came with a side of rice and a corn, lima bean, tomatillo medley. Once Cindy took a bite, she had that look of "Oh my God!" on her face. She said, "Oh, God, Will. You've got to try this."
And it was good. Very good. The red snapper was light and flavorful. The mojo de ajo sauce was a great complement to the fish giving it sort of a smoky, garlic taste. It was very, very good.
My fish tacos? Well, I guess I need to ask how they prepare their fish before I order fish tacos again. Fish tacos to me are grilled white fish, topped with lettuce or cabbage and pico de gallo. The fish tacos at The Black Marlin were deep fried pieces of fish - not quite as bad as plain ol' fish sticks, but I'm not a big fan of fish that is deep fried (or really anything that is deep fried). It was topped with a pico de gallo which was very fresh and flavorful. It's not that the fish was bad, I just wanted it to be grilled or broiled at the very least.
Our waitress came over and asked how everything was. The excited, yet blissful look on Cindy's face as she was chewing on another bite told the waitress everything she needed to know. I, on the other hand, told her that I thought the fish tacos would be grilled or broiled, not deep fried. I said, "I guess it's my fault. It seems like the only place I can ever find fish tacos that are cooked that way is west of the Rockies."
She said, "Oh, goodness, no! We could have broiled the fish for you instead of deep fryin' it. Do you want me to take these back and get you the broiled fish tacos?"
Well, by this time I'd already eaten one and was two bites into the second one. I declined, saying that the tacos were still good. And they were for deep fried fish tacos. I've had some deep fried fish tacos where, I swear, they took common frozen fish sticks and deep fried them, chopped 'em up and put them on the tortilla. Horrible. Just horrible.
I was pretty stuffed by the time we finished, but being that we were on vacation, we had to share a dessert. We decided that it was going to be pretty tough to beat the Key Lime Pie we'd had earlier at Uncle Bubba's and The Lady and Sons, so Cindy wanted to try The Black Marlin's signature Kentucky bourbon glazed pecan pie drizzled with caramel. I'm not big on pecan pie, but it sounded so sinful that I readily agreed to that. Cindy ate the bulk of the piece of pie, but it was pretty damn good. There's something about the taste of pecans that doesn't agree with me. But if you glaze pecan pie in bourbon, then pour some warm caramel on top, it certainly helps the taste.
After dinner and paying our tab, we took a short walk down along Broad Creek to watch some of the boaters enjoying a late day sail. It was our last night on Hilton Head and we knew it was going to be very difficult to leave. It was really a very nice, laid back time we had on the island. But we'd already committed to going back to Savannah and were excited to get back to enjoy some more of the city. It wasn't long before some very large mosquitoes began to make their presence. And for some reason, mosquitoes love me. I'm the first person they nail, long before they bother anyone else. Cindy thinks it's the alcohol that I sweat out that attracts them. But even if I haven't been drinking, they nail me.
Although I was disappointed in my fish tacos - but I readily admit that it was probably my fault for not asking beforehand how they're prepared, especially in the South - everything else about The Black Marlin Bayside Grill was wonderful. Our service was impeccable and our waitress received a generous tip for her efforts. While it's a little tough to find, the Black Marlin is worth seeking out if you get out to Hilton Head Island.