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Offbeat eating on Tybee

Beach dining beyond the usual suspects

POSTED: June 20, 2013 10:31 a.m.
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Gerald Schantz thinks of his eatery, Gerald's Pig and Shrimp, as "...the quintessential Americana roadside joint."

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After a day (or if you're super lucky, days) of sitting in the sand while the Atlantic laps your toes, the last thing you need are difficult decisions.

We know that figuring out what's for dinner is too taxing for your sun-toasted brain. So we've got a few suggestions for fun fare that's off the beaten track. For locals who have never tried these buried Tybee treasures, what better excuse to drive to the beach?

Vicki's on Tybee

If you've worked up the appetite for a nice, juicy steak, Vicki's is your place. And you'll likely meet the namesake of this peach-colored bungalow when you arrive.

Vicki Hammons and her husband, Rich, opened this surf-and-turf eatery in March 2012 after another restaurant success on the other side of the island. After revamping Lighthouse Pizza a few years back into a sweet joint to get a slice of pie, the Hammons were ready to expand their horizons.

"My husband is a big steak eater, and we thought it would be a nice addition to the island," says Vicki.

Heralding "seafood, steak and spirits," Vicki's gives equal time to all three: The menu boasts a big dish of locally-sourced shrimp n' grits as well as Lowcountry boil, along with all-you-can-eat shrimp on Tuesday nights. The bar is full of top shelf liquor with a selection of specialty cocktails.

But if truth be told, the real stars are those steaks — choice cuts rubbed with special seasoning and grilled over charcoal. Pricing is fair, ranging from $14.95 for a New York strip to $24.95 for an almost two-pound porterhouse.

Vicky's is open for dinner daily. But don't call it fine dining. The dress code is "Tybee formal": Cover up your suit with clean shorts and a t-shirt and wear some kind of shoes, please.

"We've got a laidback atmosphere, we're not trying to be big and fancy," says Vicki. "It's just good Tybee food."

1105 HWY 80, 912-786-9869

Gerald's Pig and Shrimp

What is that funky pavilion on Highway 80, you ask?

"It's actually a pole barn," explains proprietor Gerald Schantz, who built his beach pole barn from reclaimed heart pine and its patio from old Savannah bricks.

"I think of this place as the quintessential Americana roadside joint."

Serving up baskets of slow-cooked barbecue, ribs and beef brisket as well as local shrimp and oysters cooked up in a myriad of ways, Gerald's keeps it simple.

"When I hire someone I ask them to hold up four fingers," says Gerald. "That's how many ingredients we use on just about everything."

The former diner owner and stained glass artist uses no salt ("People can add their own"), preferring to season his dishes with fresh ground pepper, garlic and "a couple of secrets." The Lowcountry Boil features local Roger Wood lumberjack sausage, the coleslaw is chopped fresh every day and tossed with just enough vinegar and mayo, and Gerald's famous limeade — a revelation on a hot, muggy day — is squeezed fresh.

The ambience is pure local quirk with a dirt floor and mismatched chairs. Eric Culberson just signed on to play Wednesday evenings, and nailed to the reclaimed poles are handpainted signs by local legend Leonard "The Sandman" Miller — Buddha quotes, Einstein, and our personal favorite:

"It doesn't cost anything to be nice."

1115 HWY 80, 912-786-4227

Sundae Café

Smack in the middle of a shopping strip behind a gas station lies what was once the best kept culinary secret on Tybee — perhaps on the entire coast.

However, judging from its overwhelming 5-star average on Yelp.com, the secret is out.

Offering a unique take on traditional Southern dishes, Sundae Café brings everything good from the sea to their expertly-plated presentations.

Standout appetizers include the seafood cheesecake (a creamy concoction of Gouda cheese, shrimp and lump crab baked in a garlic butter crust) and the sushi nachos (pepper-infused Ahi tuna atop wonton chips and fresh-mixed guacamole.)

The pistachio-encrusted tuna served with Jack Daniels-spiked sweet potato souffle is an entrée to die for, and one should leave the planet without tasting the Lobster Mac N Cheese. Of course, less adventurous palates will find grouper sandwiches, excellent steaks and crispy fried seafood.

Definitely worth coming off the beach for are the traditional Southern daily lunch specials (Monday-Friday) — $8 comes with sides and a drink.

Be forewarned: Reservations for dinner are essential. And befitting of Tybee's often ironic charm, Sundae Café is not open on Sundays.

304 FIRST ST., 912-786-7694

Other island favorites

Tybee Island Social Club

With its white curtains and breezy chic décor, Social feels like the Lowcountry St. Tropez. An eclectic menu of gourmet tacos, seafood big plates and burgers both meat and veggie adds to the casually cosmopolitan atmosphere; any one of their gorgeous craft cocktails will make you feel like Brigitte Bardot.

1311 BUTLER AVE., 912-472-4044

Fannie's on the Beach

For 20 years, these three stories of pink have been serving up lunch, dinner and snacks just steps away from the sand. Famous for its shrimp burgers, Crab Benedict and Bloody Marys, Fannie's is a Tybee icon.

1613 STRAND AVE., 912-786-6109

Huc-A-Poo's

Nothing like pizza and a beer under the oak trees. Owner Eric can be seen tossing up dough while local bands rock into the night.

Try the "Popsie" — jalapeños, sausage, black olives and 'shrooms.

1213 E. HWY 80, 912-786-5900

A.J.'s Dockside

Tucked away on the Back River, A.J's is the best sunset spot around. The menu offers up fish house classics like po boys, fried oysters and shrimp every way for lunch and dinner.

1315 CHATHAM AVE., 912-786-9533

The Crab Shack

Apparently you don't even need shoes to dine on the Shack's fresh-caught seafood. Casual, fun and full of surprises like baby alligators on the balcony, this is the place to for an ocean feast. When you're done, just push it all through the hole in the center of the table and order another round!

40 ESTILL HAMMOCK RD. 912-786-9857

Nickie's

Here you'll find a mean calzone and other Italian eats; where else you gonna get an authentic meatball sub smothered in mozzarella? Fugeddaboudit. Also check out the epic lounge in back where you'll find locals spinning yarns at the three-sided bar.

1513 BUTLER AVE. 912-786-4444

Coco's Sunset Grille

Did someone say band on the water? Overlooking Lazaretto Creek, Coco's has live music every Friday. Menu standout include the locally-caught Buffalo Shrimp, Mojo Mahi with pineapple mango salsa and the epic Captain Frank's Seafood Platter.

1 OLD HWY 80 E, 912-786-7810

North Beach Grill

North may be the island's quiet side, but there's nothing mellow about the flavors served up in this funky beach shack. "Eclectic fusion with a Caribbean flair" translates as jerk chicken, spicy ropa vieja and the delectable whole fish escovitch.

33 MEDDIN DR., 912-786-4442

 

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