Taste-testing the Food Trucks of Hilton Head Island
It finally happened.
After months, years even, of flirting with the idea, there are at long last food trucks on Hilton Head Island. Sure, there were some voices of opposition. And I get it, I really do.
If you own a restaurant on Hilton Head Island, congratulations on running the gauntlet through one of the strictest sets of codes in the country. Zoning, parking, environmental impact… there is a mountain of red tape that must be scaled before you can serve so much as a dinner roll on Hilton Head. And letting someone in a truck just cruise around that mountain has to be seem like a slap in the face.
But the town was wise enough in its decision to allow for food trucks to limit them to the one place no one’s allowed to set up a restaurant: the town-owned beach parks. This brilliant move not only allows restaurants and food trucks to exist in some form of harmony, it also helps ease congestion at the uber-popular Coligny Beach Park by giving a little more razzle dazzle to some of the less-frequented parks.
Obviously, we had to try them all. Or at least attempt to try them all. It’ll make sense in a minute.
Chaplin Community Park
The official story is that two food trucks have been given permission to park at Chaplin Park on the Burkes Beach side: Taco Brown and It’s Only Fair.
During our Saturday visit It’s Only Fair was nowhere to be found. But having sampled their array of deep-fried carnival-style goodies, we can tell you that if you head down to the park on a day where they are in attendance, your taste buds will thank you.
That just left Taco Brown, which is strictly speaking more of a food trailer than a food truck. The tented ramp up to the small counter in the back of a cargo trailer was blessedly free of its usual mob scene when we arrived, letting us walk right up and look over the offerings. And by look over the offerings, we mean choose between a taco and a hot dog.
PHOTO: We promise, despite the sign saying something completely different on the sign, this is Taco Brown.
It’s not a very diverse menu, but when you do one thing and do it well, it doesn’t matter. Taco Brown’s tacos are perfectly prepared, with authentic seasonings and a wallet-friendly price tag. Why choose from beef, pork and chicken when getting all three still costs less than a Big Mac? And the selection of toppings, obscured in a standing cooler off to one side, are the height of authenticity. The salsa on the left hand side of the cooler, back row, is the bee’s knees. (I was given a primer on what was what, but it turns out understanding Spanish and pretending to understand Spanish out of politeness are two very different things).
PHOTO: A shadow right on the food? Bro, do you even Instagram?
Driessen Beach Park
The good news is that Driessen Beach Park now has food trucks! The bad news is, those food trucks now occupy a handful of parking spaces that were apparently the only thing keeping the parking lot here from becoming a Mad Max-style free-for-all.
Braving the flying metal and attempted vehicular homicide of Driessen Beach Park’s parking lot is worth it, though, not only for the magnificent white-sand beach beyond, but also for the two awesome eateries that now call it home.
Closest to the water, naturally, is Lowcountry Lobster (counting the restroom pavilion, I guess you would consider this second-row beachfront dining). One of the OGs of area food trucks, the folks behind this truck were instrumental in founding the Lowcountry Mobile Food Association. But that’s for the history buffs. You just want to know what to eat, right?
PHOTO: Selling out your own species; you should be ashamed, lobster. Get in my belly and think about what you’ve done.
In short, they do lobster. Or lobstaaah, as the sign says. In a southeastern seafood scene dominated by oysters and shrimp, these guys went the other way and brought down the juicy bounty that has led so far to 13 seasons (13!) of “Deadliest Catch.” They do lobster and they do it well, with huge mouth-watering chunks of the stuff filling their signature lobster rolls.
In the interest of establishing a baseline, I should have probably gone with the classic, which pairs the lobster with a simple butter melt. But I was feeling that sea breeze an opted for the margarita, with its tequila-lime mayo. (In case you’re wondering, you can do all the tequila-lime mayo shots you want – you will not catch a buzz). At $17 a pop, this is on the pricey side for both food truck fare and beachside snacking, but what you get is a substantial gut bomb of delectable lobster that’s worth every one of those 1,700 pennies.
PHOTO: If I were at all capable of photographing food, you’d see that this thing had some serious heft to it.
Next door, ‘Murican Border has been a mainstay at festivals all over the lower 843, and it’s nice to see it finally get a semi-permanent home. Veteran-owned and slinging out some immensely tasty fusion tacos, ‘Murican Border presents the rare menu in which there are no bad decisions.
PHOTO: If Abe Lincoln were alive to eat tacos out of a truck, this is the one he’d chose.
The baja taco is the straightforward southwest-inspired favorite, but as a fan of Greek food I clearly had to go for the Spartaco with its roma tomatoes and Feta cheese. However, as a fan of clever wordplay, the obvious choice was the Domo Ari Taco with its Japanese influence. On the other other other hand, as a fan of clever word play AND 90s-era Big Beat artist Fatboy Slim, I had to go with the Funk Seoul Brother.
It was basically like that scene in Princess Bride, only I had to choose which glass had delicious tacos. I went with the Funk Seoul Brother, a delectable Asian-inspired taco with just the right amount of space and bean sprouts adding the perfect crunch.
PHOTO: Check it out now, the Funk Seoul Brother. Right about now, the Funk Seoul Brother.
So next time you’re headed to the beach, bring your appetite and a few bucks along. You’ll get to taste the biggest culinary revolution of the last decade as it finally arrives on the shores of Hilton Head Island.