The Smokehouse – Hilton Head Island, SC

We’ve been fortunate to vacation quite often at Hilton Head Island, along with thousands of other Ohioans.  There’s certainly no shortage of great places to eat, especially those taking advantage of the fantastic seafood.  And even though we love all those places, we’ve come to make BBQ one of our vacation traditions.  The Smokehouse will be celebrating their 20th anniversary this year and we’re thrilled they’ve stood the test of time!

Located on Palmetto Bay Road, not far from Coligny, the newer freestanding location has ample room in the bar, dining area and outdoors.  You’ll feel right at home in the open wood-and-corrugated steel atmosphere.  After ordering a few drafts from their selection of local brews, we moved onto appetizers.  There’s a great selection of ribs, wings, sliders and a variety of other BBQ-inspired bar specialties.  I highly recommend the wings and the crunchy onion loaf!

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While the menu boasts a variety of salads, sandwiches, seafood and grilled meats, there’s no reason you should skip their BBQ.  We ordered several samplers and were impressed with the pulled pork, brisket and ribs.  The smoked chicken was a little dry, but the flavor was spot-on.  All of the traditional sides were simple and perfectly-made.  Be sure to order the macaroni & cheese as well as at the collards!

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A stop here is going to be your new family tradition for trips to the island.  Whether you dine-in or carry out bulk orders for beachside eating, you’ll be sure to have happy bellies from The Smokehouse!  Stop in for live music or check out their Sunday brunch.  You can learn more about this award-winning personal favorite at smokehousehhi.com.  Dig in!

Loch Fyne Seafood & Grill – Leith, Scotland

On the way back to Edinburgh from playing golf, we asked our driver for recommendations for dinner.  He said we absolutely needed to eat down by the water in Leith so we made a reservation for Loch Fyne.  A small UK chain, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but read lots of great reviews.  We were welcomed to a beautiful store on the pier with modern nautical-themed interior.  It was open, comfortable and casual.  It also wasn’t too busy on a weeknight, which was fine by us.

Our server was swamped and a little slow, but she was charming and super-sweet.  After running through specials and recommendations, we settled on a bottle of wine and a couple starters.  The king prawns were sweet and firm and fresh.  The smoked ham hock terrine was surprisingly light and a tasty combination of salty and fresh pops of sweet peas.  I also had to have a few of their signature oysters.  From the brackish waters of Loch Fyne, they were beautiful mouthfuls of sweet ocean candy.  There is NOTHING like them!!

The selection of mains celebrates all that the area has to offer in fresh seafood.  The seafood pasta in a light cream sauce was rich and full of perfectly-cooked scallops, mussels and shrimp.  The seared cod with fresh pesto was simple, but well done too.  My father couldn’t pass up the ridiculously-huge platter of steamed seafood.  A hubcap-sized plate piled with prawns, clams, oysters and mussels was enough to keep my dad quiet for the next 30 minutes.  While nothing was unusual about the preparation, everything was exactly as you hope such local fare would be.

Cappuccino and a mixed-berry crumble rounded out our evening and a delightful dinner  on the water.  Given the number of locations, you should be able to find one near you while in and around the UK.  It’ll be tough to beat the experience and location of the Leith store however.  Find a spot and for God’s sake have some of those oysters!!  You can take a look at their menu and particulars at lochfyneseafoodandgrill.co.uk.  Dig in!

Burger & Lobster – London

When you’re looking for surf-n-turf, but want to dispense with the maitre de and suit you find a Burger & Lobster location and get after it!  Friends of ours recommended this spot from their recent visit to London as did a few books and websites.  My dad was also obsessed with the idea of this narrow menu done very well.  While there are plenty of locations in London, Bangkok, New York, Dubai and others, we settled into the location on the top floor of Harvey Nichols.

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A casual, but refined interior was a lively place filled with shoppers, date-nighters and all manner of guests.  Our common bond?  Devour the delicious choices of surf and turf in front of us.  We ordered a few cocktails and a particularly tasty watermelon iced tea concoction and reviewed the small, but delicious menu.  The Nebraska beef burger was thick and juicy topped appropriately with bacon and cheese.  It was served with crispy salty french fries and their signature salad.  While not the best burger we’ve had, it was a top-notch sandwich for sure.

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Our lobster rolls were some of the best we’ve had!  The traditional buttery toasted bun, lightly-dressed sweet lobster and touch of chives came together for a Cape Cod-worthy sandwich.  Add those fries and salad and you will be one happy customer.  My father tried the lobster burger (think of the two dishes above combined on a single sandwich) and raved about how much he loved it.

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Whether you want the burger, a whole lobster or some variant in between, you’ll want to  make this a priority if anywhere close to one.  Functionally descriptive, calorically excessive and potentially addictive, Burger & Lobster will quickly become a favorite.  Find out more and view their locations at burgerandlobster.com.  Dig in!

Sale & Pepe – London

For beautiful classic Italian fare in the heart of London’s shopping district, be sure to make your reservation at Sale & Pepe.  Among one of our busier days touring the city, we made a late reservation for dinner at this highly-rated eatery.  Tightly packed and slightly up upscale, the restaurant has a lovely interior decor with small tables and a lively atmosphere.  The maitre de was especially entertaining and made every person that walked through the door feel special and part of the family.  We were immediately thrilled to be there!

While the seating is tight and service a bit slow, we enjoyed the atmosphere while we reviewed the menu.  Sipping a great pinot grigio and nibbling on bread, we made selections from the ample menu filled with traditional dishes.  I loved that there were lots of seafood options to take advantage of the local bounty!  We started with a few basic salads and a very fresh melon and prosciutto starter.  All of them were well-prepared with as much local produce available.

We made our way to our mains where everything was equally as tasty.  The veal ravioli with fresh marinara we rich and decadent, but not heavy.  The linguini and clams was beautiful and a great rendition of the classic.  I opted for the mixed seafood grill which was a top-notch preparation of langoustine, scallops, fish and squid.

There was no doubt we were ordering cappuccino and dessert to round out our evening! Both the creme brûlée and chocolate semifreddo were outstanding.  If we only had more time to try more on the menu – we’ll have to make another trip!  You’ll have a wonderful dinner out with the famiglia or your sweetheart at Sale & Pepe.  Make sure you book a reservation!  Find out more on their website at saleepepe.co.uk.  Dig in!

Stoke House – London

Whether you’re playing tourist in the heart of London or just out for a day of shopping, a stop at Stoke House is the perfect recharge and refresh!  Located just off Victoria Street, this spacious and modern eatery celebrates the bounty of local produce and meats with inventive and straightforward preparation.  While the patio was crowded on a Saturday afternoon, there was ample seating inside the colorful combination of rustic and modern.  We were thrilled for a few craft beers and cocktails from their ample list while we perused the menu.

There’s a lovely selection of starters from a British cheese board to smoked bone marrow.  While it all looked delicious, we were ready to move right into sandwiches.  The smoked chicken salad with spicy mayo on a brioche bun was outstanding.  Moist, rich and super-satisfying, this is a must-have sandwich on any trip to Stoke House.  The rare cornish rump sandwich was tasty, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Just the opposite of that was the short rib with chili rib jam and pickles.  As an avid BBQer and short rib fan, this was one well-done sammich!

While I love the locally sourced meats and great sandwiches, the star of the show was the selection of sides.  Smoked cauliflower cheese was a bubbling crock of cauliflower smothered in a rich cheese sauce.  There was a depth of flavor and warm spiciness that wouldn’t let you put your spoon down.  My favorite part of the meal is the fresh salads prepared daily.  There are always four or more colorful dishes that you can select three of as a shared plate for the table.  On this occasion, we fell in love with our choices:  peas, edamame & mint, watermelon, tomato, feta & basil and finally a tomato and pepper panzanella salad.  All of them were knock-your-socks-off fresh and well-seasoned – we couldn’t ask for a prettier selection either!

Whether a casual lunch or an evening out, Stoke House will profile a wonderful experience and a lively atmosphere.  It’s exciting to see smoked meats done well in the heart of London, we would have loved to come back at dinner for the lamb belly or beer can chicken.  Find out more and check out the menu at thestokehouse.com.  Dig in!

The Anglesea Arms – South Kensington, London

On the first night of our summer trip to the UK, we made reservations for dinner at The Anglesea Arms, a perfectly quaint British pub not far from out hotel in South Kensington.  This lively location was bustling with a huge crowd sipping pints and smoking hand-rolled cigarettes on a Friday night.  Despite all the people, the restaurant in the lower portion of the pub was quiet, comfortable an classically British.

Our friendly server offered some ideas while we perused the menu.  Settling on a scotch and a bottle of wine from the healthy selection, we also ordered the charcuterie board and baked camembert as starters.  The meat selection included salami, prosciutto, wild boar capicola, fresh vegetables and jam.  The camembert was luscious and warm topped with pecans and served with apricot jam and toast points.  Both were ample enough to be shared among the four of us.

There’s a variety of mains that utilize local fresh ingredients and celebrate British cuisine.  Two of us ordered the local bone-in pork chop.  It was beautifully pan-seared and served with potatoes, cabbage and scalloped apples.  It was both juicy and perfectly porky!  My wife had the grilled ribeye steak with herbed butter served with chips.  It was rich, juicy and expertly cooked.  Finally, I devoured the roast lamb served with fresh baby spinach and roasted fingerling potatoes.  You could taste the countryside in this dish, deftly prepared by the local chef.  I have not had a finer lamb dish!

The experience, location, food and service here was a warm welcome to the start of our holiday.  I recommend making the trip to South Kensington for a wonderful experience and a true taste of updated British pub fare.  While the menu is outdated online, you can find out more details at The Anglesea Arms.  Dig in!