Tybee Island Social Club
1311 Butler Ave. (912) 472-4044
Mon- Sat: noon-2 am
Sun: 11 am-11 pm
A WHITE-WASHED cottage with a wide front porch glowing in the dusk with strings of fairy-lights. A warm salty breeze makes the ship's lamps in front bob gently and tickles the leaves of the camellia bush twining its dark, glossy leaves around the porch railing.
Two levels of porch to choose from or sit at the bar or in the amber-lit dining room inside. White curtains flutter, big round paper lanterns like moons, comfy corners with striped or softly patterned pillows, driftwood sculptures in the flickering light of candles in blue sea-glass holders, shells, sea oats...
Each little scene gives you a sense of peace, with a laid-back beach vibe, soft laughter from guests exclaiming over the food, staff in crinkled white or khaki, flip-flops and sneakers, always there at your table when you need them, but not hovering when you don’t.
Ah, and the menu, Caribbean-inspired and lavish with Latin touches like cilantro, chorizo, chipotle, lime and queso fresco, and plenty of fresh seafood prepared in ways that will send you home dreaming of what you want to try next.
Ahi tuna, pulled pork, blue crab, shrimp, whitefish, steak and lobster make their appearances in a variety of tacos —the original raison d’être—with toppings like chopped almonds, bacon, pear puree, horseradish aioli or cucumber pico de gallo, to name a few.
Burgers here are big half-pounders and can be ordered with guacamole, bacon, various exotic cheeses, lemony hummus or topped with a fried egg. For those of a more tender nature, vegetarian cuisine is varied and delicious and the Social Salad, with avocado, roasted corn, tomato, spring mix, smoked gorgonzola and lavished with lemon vinaigrette, makes a perfect meal; add the Biggie Small (big burrito, small price) fragrant with pepperjack, chipotle aioli, cilantro and jalapeno-lime crema and really, you couldn’t desire a more satisfying dinner, with its complex flavors and textures.
This is definitely a good place to make appetizers into a full meal and you won’t find just a set of deep-fried choices offered elsewhere on the island. The Farm Plate with hummus, seasonal veggies, soft white Mexican cheese, smoked almonds and toasted pita points makes a perfect to-go picnic, and the Crab & Shrimp nachos simply sing with flavor!
My last visit I enjoyed, not one, but two, eye-rollingly wonderful, toothsome dishes that are so good, I’ll have to remind myself to order something new next time—because this is the kind of restaurant that has daily specials to set your digestive juices a-flowing (like the blackened fish tacos) and you’ll want to try everything, believe me. Both of these incredible dishes employ Manchego cheese. What? You’ve never heard of it?
Manchego is a firm, white cheese made of whole milk from the Manchega sheep, exclusively raised in the La Mancha region of Spain, Don Quixote’s hang-out, and it is used here in the Manchego skillet: a rich blend of melted Manchego, white wine, roasted garlic, with a touch of sage, brought to you in its own black iron skillet with a pile of chewy French bread slices—top it with blue crab meat or chorizo for a food-gasm you’ll never forget.
Shrimp and grits has made itself room on many menus this last decade—though true Southerners always knew it to be a perfect meal for any time of day!—and here it reaches a truly amazing peak of perfection. Manchego cheese and bacon grits, with a spicy parmesan cheese sauce given a rosy glow with chorizo bits, and topped with big, grilled East Coast shrimp—the whole thing is drizzled with herbed olive oil and yes, you’ll want an order of that French bread to sop up the gravy, honey, because you’re not gonna wanna waste nuthin’ here!
Each entrée, whether seafood, burger, tacos or salad, comes with a wine pairing or beer suggestion, so make your choice and compliment your meal with the wide selection available at the bar. Try the Son-of-a-Peach flavored beer or a cold Southbound, and don’t miss the special cocktails list. The Spring Socialite made with fresh strawberries, muddled basil leaves and honey vodka is light, refreshing and perfect on a hot day.
The Scientist, with its rosemary syrup, bluecoat gin, Chase elderflower Liqueur and fresh lime juice is superb with seafood dishes, and bacon-lovers will want to try the Best Smoked Vodka Bacon Bloody Mary EVER—on Sunday you get it bottomless from 12:30-3 p.m., so join the slew of fans crowded ‘round the bar and grab their Spicy Roasted Jalapeno Pimento Cheese dip for a kickin’ snack to go along with it.
Owner Kurtis Schumm started cooking in college to impress his future wife, Sarah, an interior designer, and will tell you that “Love made me creative...”
This love and inventiveness, this desire to please and willingness to experiment with texture and flavor has followed through in their menu to this day. Staff here will tell you they feel like a family and, like any good Dad, Kurtis welcomes their suggestions and menu additions, so expect the daily and weekend specials to be quirky and delicious.
What started as a little taqueria (taco hut) has been transformed through the love of good food and avid local fans into this white-washed haven of Latin-Caribbean laced cuisine that is unique, exquisite and can render you speechless in a hurry—and I mean that in the best of ways, my friends.