The boys are back, but only figuratively because they never actually left. What boys? Brendan, Thomas and Keith. The Reilley boys, plus chefs Shawn Ross and Josh Hull, who couldn’t be persuaded to change their names to Reilley, but could be persuaded to help develop a menu and concept for the newest addition to the Reilley family’s family of restaurants and watering holes. You know Reilley’s Grill & Bar; you know Aunt Chilada’s; you know The Boardroom; and you know The Crazy Crab. Now get to know Carolina Crab Company. It’s at Palmetto Bay Marina. You also know where that is.
Sensing a void in Palmetto Bay Marina left by Captain Woody’s departure, the guys secured the vacant unit with a plan to bring a local favorite back to life in the Marina…with a new name, an original menu and local ownership that you’ve known and trusted for years. “It is a new restaurant,” Brendan explained, but it’s like we’re not new. We’re a familiar name. We’ve been around for 30 years.”
That doesn’t mean that they’re just repackaging other brands with Carolina Crab Company (C3), though. The three Reilleys, Ross and Hull set out to create a new unique menu, giving C3 its own signature.
Think, “Great Legs, Cold Beer.” That’s meant to draw your attention to Buckets & Boils, the menu’s main event where you’ll find JJ’s Crab Boil (1/4 lb. snow crab legs, red potatoes, corn), a Lowcountry Boil (if you don’t know the ingredients you’re not a local and probably aren’t reading this anyway) and the star of the show, The Jack Pot (half Maine lobster, crab legs, oysters, shrimp, clams, corn).
There’s plenty over in the entrées column from the surf and the turf: fish tacos made with tilapia, shrimp and grits, barbecued pork shanks, a jumbo lump crab cake and live Maine lobster are a few examples.
Not to mention a steak lover’s dream come true if there ever was one: the Marina Steak, blackened prime rib with blueberry moonshine glaze, cheese grits and corn.
“It’s Southern flair,” Thomas said, “but not all fried food in a basket.” Not that you can’t have that. There is a Fried Shrimp Basket and Fried Shrimp Platter (shrimp, oysters, scallops and flounder) on the menu.
“We’re serving Carolina grits, local little neck clams and beers from local breweries. We’re trying to get that feel that we’re supporting the local community and economy. Whether it’s from right here or Spartanburg, that’s still our area. I think it’s a refreshing feel.”
“We’re using South Carolina product as much as we can,” added Ross with emphasis on local blue crabs, which according to the plan will soon be a permanent fixture on the menu. It makes the cream-based Carolina Crab Chowder with spices, bacon, potatoes and corn with two crab cake bites sound that much more appetizing, doesn’t it?
C3 opened in mid-July of this year, and it’s off to a good start in that relatively short period of time. That should come as no surprise considering the Reilley organization’s track record on the island. “We get a lot of feedback on the menu items,” Ross said, “and we already notice people coming back over and over.” That’s the plan: to create a place where locals, not tourists, are the focus of attention, where a regular crowd will shuffle in during all seasons, not just one. “We’re aimed at locals,” Keith said. That’s our focus. We’re not priced for tourists.”
From Left to Right: Brendan Reilley, Josh Hull, Thomas Reilley and Shawn Ross
Carolina Crab Company is located at Palmetto Bay Marina
Nothing against tourists, mind you. God bless ’em; we need ’em around here. But darned if we locals don’t like to sit outside and watch the sun go down over the harbor with a cool drink and some fresh local seafood as much as the folks visiting from Ohio do. And we like to do it surrounded by friends, neighbors and acquaintances rather than complete strangers and their screaming kids. The guys at C3 are creating that sort of environment. “What we’re trying to do here is create the bar that we’d want to hang out at,” Brendan said. “It’s casual, but we’re definitely not casual about the product. It’s something we put a lot of care into; we put a lot of pride into what we serve, but we don’t charge an arm and a leg for it.”
The bar features six draft beers, including River Dog Red IPA from Bluffton and Coast IPA from Charleston, and 21 brands by the bottle or can including three from Mt. Pleasant-based Westbrook Brewing Co. All the usual varietals are represented on a list of 15 wines by the bottle or glass. “We serve high-end wells,” Thomas said. “I think we have the best well rack on the island. We want you to be satisfied with your drink.”
Everything is, as they said, priced for the local clientele, including the fruity “Fun-Coctions” such as the Fish Bowl; 4 liquors plus sweet-and-sour and Sprite served in…well…a fish bowl. Watch out for this one, it’s meant for 3-4 thirsty folks.
Carolina Crab Company is open 7 days a week from 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Weekend brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. During football season, Sunday is “NFL Funday” with drink and food specials all day.
Author: Frank Dunne Jr. | Photographer: Photography by Anne