Quite a Catch

"Scotts Fish Market has stood the test of time thanks to great food and service."

By Teresa Fitzgibbons, Hilton Head Monthly Magazine, September 2006

What is it that draws you back to a restaurant?

Flavorful food? Skilled service? Appealing atmosphere? Ask most dining patrons and it’s all of the above, especially when it’s done on a consistent basis. As the loyal clientele can attest, Scott’s Fish Market in Shelter Cove is a place you’ll want to sample again and again. Each time you visit, you’ll experience the same outstanding service and savory food that brought you back to begin with. “Our goal is to make sure that everybody who walks out of here wants to come back,” said owner Scott Allen. “That’s the key. If you deal with somebody once, you don’t stay in business very long.” Patrons have been returning for nearly 18 years. Originally established as Scott’s Harbourside in 1989, the restaurant changed direction in 1993, and Scott’s Fish Market was born.

“We wanted to create a real fresh seafood concept that wasn’t necessarily a seafood house,” said Allen. “We tried things like charbroiling and grilling and preparing the fish in such a way that let the natural flavors of the fish come though.”

While this was becoming popular in other areas, at the time most local seafood restaurants were offering more traditional fare: either fried seafood or a more upscale and saucy preparation. “By taking a fresh approach to seafood and keeping the atmosphere more causal, we built up a whole new clientele.”

Allen knows just how to go about building a loyal customer base. The North Carolina native put himself through college at Appalachian State University by working in food and beverage. After graduating, Allen chanced upon Hilton Head while en route to teach art in Key West, and a summer trip turned a little more permanent. He worked as everything from a room service waiter to bartender to dining room captain in fine dining establishments like the Hyatt, CQ’s and Fulvios. By 1983, he was the maitre d’ at Harbour Master’s and within a year and a half, he was the general manager, a position he held until 2002.

“At Scott’s Fish Market, our forte is the whole segment of seafood we offer,” said Allen. “If you look at the menu, it’s all done in different fashions – sautéed, fried, broiled, grilled, charbroiled and baked. There’s a bit of everything.”

Entrees are complemented with fresh vegetables, salads, and homemade bread. A wide array of appetizers and tempting desserts are also on the menu. Scott’s is the home of Hurricane Harry’s Wharf Bar, where all are welcome to enjoy tropical drinks and live music overlooking the harbor. Guests can dine inside amid the funky fish that dominate the décor or outside under the stars. “We have the largest outside seating area on the island,” said Allen.

If seafood doesn’t tempt your palette, there are plenty of other options that will. There’s pasta from scratch, entrée salads for the health conscious and chicken and beef selections including the locals’ favorite: a charbroiled fillet mignon in a spicy marinade, one of many selections created by head chef Anthony Scott.

“He’s one of the best workers in the world and integral to our success,” Allen said of his chef. Anthony began working for Allen as a 13-year old dishwasher at Harbourmaster’s, where he later trained under the head chef. He’s been at Scott’s since the doors opened.

Anthony isn’t the only employee with a history of quality service. Manager and bartender Tony Ferre met Allen as a busboy at Harbourmaster’s in 1984. “Tony works harder and longer than anyone else on the island,” Allen said of the affable bartender who makes every guest instantly feel like an old friend. “Without him, we wouldn’t be open – he’s the go-to guy for almost everything.”

Several other staffers have more than fifteen years of service at the restaurant. While Allen credits their longevity and loyalty to the consistency of product keeping them financially sound, the employees are quicker to credit Allen and the atmosphere he has created.

“I can rely on them – everyone does everything and is always ready to assist. The concept of Scott’s Fish Market will remain in place even when I’m not around,” said Allen.“We’re casual in dress and feeling, but serious about food preparation and the consistency that has been our hallmark over time,” said Allen.

It’s a formula that works. Scott’s Fish Market has stood the test of time and continues to attract a loyal following. “We rarely see someone just once. Even if they’re a tourist only in town for the week, we’ll usually see them twice,” said Allen.

Scott’s Fish Market is open for dinner from 4:30.