In addition to great golf courses, Hilton Head Island has a varied nightlife, from upscale nightclubs and martini bars and cigar bars, to cozy cafes and jazz clubs.
HILTON HEAD, S.C. - You may not know it when you first drive around Hilton Head Island, with all those stately oaks, dignified homes and perfect, well-groomed American families riding around the well-manicured bicycle trails, but Hilton Head does have a nightlife.
True, Hilton Head nightlife doesn't exactly offer golfers the raucous strip clubs or drink-all-night dollar specials of rowdy neighbor Myrtle Beach to the north.
Quite the opposite, my good man. Hilton Head nightlife, for the most part, reflects its more uptown upbringing, such as being the home of the $1,000 martini. Still, you may be surprised to know it has two topless joints, Club Paradise and Thee Diamond Club.
After many visits by our dedicated staff, and with input from frequent patrons, here is a recommended sampler:
• Twist the Bistro is probably the only place on Hilton Head that has the nerve to say it's "gay friendly." This is the home of the $1,000 martini, the "Diamondtini, served with a real diamond bracelet. It also has 28 varieties of martinis, costing from $7-$12, as well as a full bar and wine selection, appetizers and sandwiches. It's a smallish, laid-back club, with different, nightly themes. 32 Palmetto Bay Road, tel. (843) 341-6933.
• The Salty Dog Café is your classic waterfront café, serving drinks and food inside or outside on the deck. As a bonus, you can get a t-shirt emblazoned with Jake the Dog. 232 South Sea Pines Dr., tel. (843) 671-2233.
• The Jazz Corner is a low-down, cool and sophisticated place that has jazz acts, local, regional and national. It focuses on jazz from the 1950s-'60s and serves dinner Tuesday through Sunday. The club books acts like Bobby Ryder, the Lavon Stevens Project - which plays Broadway and the blues - Deas Guys - R&B, blues and Motown - and the Dixieland Jazz band from Atlanta. The Village at Wexford, C-1, tel. (843) 842-8620.
• The Lodge is for the lords of the manor. It's a cigar and martini bar with stone fireplaces, fancy chandeliers and billiard tables. This is one of the bars that tried hard to fight the smoking ban but lost. 7C Greenwood Dr., tel. (843) 842-8966.
• Frankie Bones has "steaks, chops, seafood and wiseguys." The décor is what the name and motto suggests. It's a Sinatra-themed restaurant and lounge with high-back, burgundy leather booths, serving mainly Italian food, like the "Godfather sandwich." Still, I doubt Sinatra would have been a member of the Hilton Head Chamber of Commerce. 1301 Main St., tel. (843) 682-4455.
• Aunt Chilada's Easy Street Café has 18 flat-screen TVs for sports fans. It serves Mexican food but may have the best burgers in town. There is also the Giant Easy Street Margarita and all-you-can-eat Alaskan crab legs. Beware, it can get very busy after 6 p.m. 69 Pope Ave., tel. (843) 785-7700.
• Big Bamboo Café has live music nightly and a 1940s theme straight out of South Pacific, though some customers have complained it's a little too dingy for their tastes. It has good hummus appetizers and barbecue ribs and a lively happy hour. Coligny Plaza, tel. (843) 686-3443.
• Hilton Head Brewing Company was the first micro-brewery on the island, and some say it has gone downhill in the last couple of years. My own experience has been it's hit or miss, and the quality of the beer varies. It attracts a younger crowd that likes to "hang out." It's a little difficult to find, so call ahead. 7 Greenwood Dr., tel. (843) 785-3900.
• Riders Lounge may be the best place on the island to see good, live music, like The Fresh Hots. 6 Target Rd., tel. (843) 842-7433.
January 21, 2008