Exploring Bluffton: Celebrating the flavorful food scene one dish at a time

Exploring Bluffton Okan restaurant, photo provided by Cristine Struble
Exploring Bluffton Okan restaurant, photo provided by Cristine Struble /

While Hilton Head is a popular South Carolina destination, exploring Bluffton invites guests to sit a spell in the quaint town. Nestled within its picturesque streets are a myriad of restaurants, watering holes, and shops that beg people to linger just a little longer. When it is time to put away the phone and let time slow down, this South Carolina town is waiting to be explored.

Looking up and down the streets of Bluffton, the conscious choice to have a similar architectural aesthetic allows the old and the new to seamlessly blend. While every city needs new life to keep evolving, it cannot lose sight of its history. That sentiment is clear throughout the area.

For the visitor who wants to maximize a day or two in the area, it is best to start early. Consider stopping on the Corner Perk Brunch for a preferred brew. Grab an outside table, catch up on the news and create a walking plan for the day.

Throughout the area, there are art galleries, shops, and even a few museums. Close to the water is the Church of the Cross. Occasionally, local members are available as docents. Even though the pews sit empty during the day, the space holds the area’s history, nurtures its current community, and hopes for a fulfilled tomorrow.

On the way back to the center of town, a brunch stop at The Cottage is delightful. The cozy restaurant offers some Southern classics in a homey setting. Guests can sit on the porch and people watch or choose a small table surrounded by a collection of teapots and cups. The Fried Green Tomatoes were perfectly seasoned and crisp. That classic combination of slightly tart with a hint of spice could even be called refreshing on a warm day.

Throughout Bluffton, the small artist spaces give a glimpse into the area’s culture. From painting to sculpture, the interpretations reflect nature’s impact on this community. Whether it is the humble oyster or Gullah culture, the representations invite people to have that conversation. Through that willingness to communicate, learn, and grow, the community strengthens itself.

For a mid afternoon snack, two options compete for the optimum choice. First, consider grabbing a margarita and chips at Agave. The strawberry jalapeno margarita has a delicate balance of sweet and heat. Made fresh to order, the cocktail is perfectly refreshing on a warm afternoon.

Exploring Bluffton Nectar Farm Kitchen beer and cheese plate
Exploring Bluffton Nectar Farm Kitchen beer and cheese plate, photo by Cristine Struble /

If beer is preferred, stopping at Nectar Farm Kitchen for a beer flight and cheese board will have people losing track of time in a good way. The locally brewed beer plus the cheese board is a sampling of local artisans. Seeing how the hard and soft cheeses pair with the beer is delightful. And, do not snooze on those pecans. They should never be left on the board.

For dinner, visitors have two impeccable options. If two nights are on the agenda, it is imperative to enjoy both of the best restaurants in town.

First, Okan, from James Beard nominated Chef Bernard Bennett brings a conversation of culture, family, and seasonality to the table. As the menu is placed at the table, the story begins. The culinary team has done a wonderful job to guide diners through approachable explanations.

Exploring Bluffton Okan restaurant
Exploring Bluffton Okan restaurant, photo provided by Cristine Struble /

From rice centric options to farm fresh ingredients, the carefully curated menu is impeccable. A few flavors can be a touch unexpected, but those notes add to the overall experience.

Once the food arrives, the conversation stops because everyone cannot stop eating. From exploring the different types of rice to a whole fish presentation to a bounty of local ingredients, hopefully everyone is willing to share plates since a real Okan dining experience should be ordering one of everything.

Another celebration of locally sourced ingredients is Farm. From Chef Brandon Carter, the dishes have a nuance that needs to be appreciated and never overlooked. From the fresh pasta to the house made breads, each element showcases the chef’s craft.

Exploring Bluffton Farm restaurant
Exploring Bluffton Farm restaurant, photo by Cristine Struble /

As the name suggests, the seasonality is front and center. From the rustic décor to the freshest vegetables, the culinary team celebrates its community. It feels as if a guest has been welcomed into their home and the feast has just been plucked from the backyard garden. When that feeling is blended with culinary expertise, the dining is quite memorable.

While just a day in Bluffton South Carolina might feel like a whirlwind, the experience will have people longing to come back. From Southern hospitality to culinary creativity celebrating the locally sourced ingredients, the food is genuine, nuanced, and flavorful. A table is waiting, and everyone is invited to sit, savor, and feel satisfied.

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