Story by Becky Billingsley
Photo by Kris Thapoung
Ty Hulsey grew up in the Grand Strand and has ties to Socastee High School, which he attended, and to Conway High School, where he graduated.
The chef attended Johnson & Wales University when it was located in Charleston, and he graduated with a degree in culinary arts. He returned to the Myrtle Beach area and helped open Bovine's restaurant in Murrells Inlet.
Chef Hulsey went on to own Big Island Bistro in North Myrtle Beach and the Santa Maria Cafe in Atlanta. He worked at a Hilton Head nightclub called Katmandu, and for the previous six years he has worked at a casual oceanfront cafe and a four-star fine dining restaurant in Islamorada, Fla.
Hulsey says he is excited about the menu that has been developed for and continues to be tweaked at Tailgators.
"What we're doing here is something a little different and unique," he said. "It's not straight-up seafood...I do Caribbean, contemporary Southwestern, contemporary Lowcountry. It's a fusion of those three elements in a casual atmosphere. We'll keep it simple, and we'll do seasonal menu changes using whatever fresh indigenous products I can use."
Tailgators owners are partners John Russell and Dan O'Neill.
O'Neill was born and raised in Pennsylvania, but he has relatives in Darlington and spent many summers there. He and his cousins also spent happy summer weeks in Pawleys Island vacation rentals. O'Neill has worked in restaurants before, but for the previous 25 years he has been a manager for a cable television company.
Russell is originally from Maryland, but he also moved to this area from Pennsylvania. He had a "very successful Italian/pizza business" in Gettysburg, Pa.
The ambiance at Tailgators is casual and comfortable.
O'Neill and Russell painted the interior and have new murals in place. It's a shabby/chic wooden world with wood floors, tables, chairs and barstools, with a mix of Shaker, ladderback and early American styles. A tin roof overhangs the door leading to the courtyard bar called the Gator Cabana, and over the bar are a few large flat screen televisions that can be viewed from any interior table.
A comfy open-air patio overlooks the Mingo pond and fountain.
In the fall O'Neill said he will offer a special on Monday nights for football season where eight jumbo wings will be $3. For now there is Open Mic Night on Tuesdays, Karaoke on Wednesdays and live music starting at 8 p.m. Thursdays.
They are striving for a family-friend atmosphere providing terrific casual food and a comfortable hangout for sports fans.
What's to eat
My favorite dish is the Baja Fish Tacos, which is an appetizer where three mini corn tortillas are filled with grilled fish and chili-pineapple slaw. It comes with two sauces: one a creamy chive/basil/sour cream that's slightly sweet, and the other a slightly spicy red Rojo Sauce with a pleasant thick consistency and an excellent fire-roasted tomato flavor.
Other appetizers include Pan-Seared Scallops over whipped potatoes with a truffle-basil oil drizzle; Old Bay Spiced Shrimp with red pepper remoulade; Conch Fritters; Seared Tuna over cucumber seaweed salad with pickled ginger and wasabi-soy reduction; Smoked Fish or Shrimp Dip; and Jalapeno Hummus.
Several soups and salads are offered. A dining companion liked his Summer Salad with a mixture of fresh greens, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, goat cheese, pine nuts and blueberry vinaigrette. My house salad with the house dressing - Creamy Vidalia Onion - was also sweetly delicious.
Other salad choices are Tuna Nicoise, Asian Chicken, Classic Caesar and the Coastal Mix with chopped shrimp, red onion, tomatoes, green beans and bacon tossed in the house vinaigrette.
Two soups are Cream of Crab and Black Bean with Corn. For an extra $4-$5 salads can be topped with chicken, shrimp, salmon, mahi mahi or tuna.
There are always a couple of lunch specials, and when I visited a companion enjoyed that day's Meatloaf Sandwich. It was grilled, and the meat was layered with cheese so that it was similar to a hard-crusted panini.
Other lunch specials include Cuban Panini, Mahi Mahi Reuben, Carolina Crab Cake Sandwich, Crunchy Fish Sandwich with chipotle-honey tartar sauce (a friend who tried this loved it), Carolina Pulled Pork with house-made sauce, and a Turkey Cranberry Burger. Burgers and sandwiches come with a choice of fries, sweet potato tater tots or sunshine slaw.
I didn't try the slaw, but it sounds good as it's made with blueberries in it. But I did try the sweet potato tots, and they're ragingly wonderful. A friend and I agree we could be happy just with a big plateful of those.
I tried an entree: Rasta Pasta. It is jerk chicken, pineapple, carrots, zucchini, red onion and pineapple chunks tossed with a creamy and sweetly delicious sauce. The dish was served with smooth spiral pasta, and the sauce dripped off of it. The pasta is attractive, but I think the dish would taste even better than it already does if the pasta was a shape that would capture the sauce better such as penne or orichette.
I mistook the carrots in the dish for sweet potatoes (I'll never live that down!), because my mind was telling me that sweet potatoes would be more appropriate in this Caribbean dish.
More entrees are Guava Baby Back Ribs, Tortilla Crusted Mahi Mahi, Low Country Shrimp and Grits with fresh tomato gravy, 12-ounce Ribeye with shiitake mushroom demi-glace, Herb Grilled Chicken, and Pan Seared Salmon with linguine tossed with roasted garlic, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and lemon olive oil.
An array of seafoods are offered such as shrimp, scallops, tuna and catch of the day that can be grilled, blackened, broiled or fried, and served with a choice of sauces including Key Lime Mustard and Lemon Basil Butter.
The Pawleys Platter comes with a choice of three seafoods.
For dessert we picked one that's made in-house: Key Lime Pie Stack with honey mango coulis, raspberry sauce and whipped cream.
The chef takes two pieces of Key Lime Pie made in a big sheet and stacks them on top of each other.
We loved how this lets the diner get the graham cracker crust layered up in the bites.
Where: 251 Willbrook Blvd., Pawleys Island
Noise Level: Rock music plays softly; we could converse in normal tones.
Vegetarian Options: Jalapeno Hummus with baked pita chips, Chips and Grilled Tomato Salsa, Black Bean & Corn Soup, Salads, Boca Veggie Burger, Desserts and you could order the Rasta Pasta without chicken.
Smoking: Allowed outside the building, such as on the waterfront patio.
Hours: 11 a.m. to close daily.
Prices: Starters are $4-$11; sandwiches and burgers $7-$11; soups and salads $3-$14; entrees $13-$27; desserts $5-$6; children's meals $5 and include entree, fries, soft drink or milk, 2 Oreo Cookies and a coloring page.
Check for Two: My lunch tab for one appetizer, two entrees, one dessert and one tea was $40, and we both had food left over.
Why did the wine shop cross the road? To have room for more bottles! Steven and Eileen Perrone are packing up Perrone's Fine Foods and Market at 13291 Ocean Highway in Pawleys Island and are moving it across the street to the McElveen Designs & Antiques building at 13302 Ocean Highway. McElveen will still be there in 1/4 of the space, and Perrone's will have the rest. They anticipate reopening in late September.
During the move they can be reached via e-mail at PerronesMarket.SC@gmail.com.
If you are a restaurant owner who would like your business to be recognized for your efforts to recycle and conserve resources, The South Carolina Green Hospitality Alliance would like to help you out. They certify using a palmetto tree scale: the scale goes from One- to Three-Palmetto Tree rankings for the best sustainability practices. Find out more at GreenHospitalityAlliance.com.
Two Little Morsels
Hoof N Finz at 3415 U.S. 17 Business in Murrells Inlet has closed permanently after four years in business.
Representatives at the Massey's Pizza corporate headquarters in Ohio say they are talking to Dave Trimmer about opening a location in the outparcel near Eggs Up Grill in the Litchfield Beach Piggly Wiggly shopping center.
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