71 Sea Island Parkway has a great view of Factory Creek and the Woods Memorial Bridge stretching into downtown Beaufort, and it's a great location set back from a well trafficked road.
Still the last business in the spot, Groupers Restaurant, lasted all of four months — a clear sign that the location can't survive poor marketing or ill executed restaurant chops.
The new contender, Factory Creek Fish Company (no website), is child of Mary and Tommy Winburn who own popular local spot Emily's that's on Port Republic Street off the beaten path in downtown Beaufort.
Despite the differences in views and passer-by visibility the similarities between these two restaurants are clear. Not only will you spot some familiar dishes (see the beef tips in garlic sauce entry,) the style is similar as much as it's different.
Let's start by talking about Emily's - the spot has always struck me as strange. In some ways it is very high end in its menu prices and source ingredients, yet the sprawling menu, Cheers-like feel, and general demeanor make it more of a neighborhood hangout.
It's a vibe that has carried over to "FC2."
The menu and branding designs are slick and sharp edged, the view impeccable, the service prompt. The ceiling rafters are exposed, painted blue, and the restaurant lit by reflected light — and that's where the restaurant seems to shift to a balance between high end and hangout.
The reflected florescent light from the bright blue ceiling creates a bit of an odd twilight feel that could do with a bit of dimming, and the style is made more casual by the I'll-be-drinking-all-night Yuengling and PBR style beers on tap along with a news broadcasting TV.
[Review continues below.]
Blue: It's the color of ocean — and the night sky?
The menu and food
Lunch ranges from a pocket friendly $5 to $10, while dinner entrees range from $13 to $25, with the average price being in the $18 range.
The menu is diverse but not quite as sprawling as Emily's, still the appetizer section manages to stake out impressive claim on the two-page menu. Offered are the expected seafood style items like Lime-Pepper Seared Tuna ($12.95) and Steamed Mussels ($7.95). But if you're expecting a seafood-only experience you'll be surprised. Tucked in are more American classics like 10 Jumbo Wings ($8.50) and Fried Pickles ($5.95). Dinner entrees also spread a wide range from Shrimp & Grits ($16.95) and Adobo Marinated Swordfish ($18.95) to Steak Au Poivre ($16.95) and a Baked Half Chicken ($15.95.)
[We couldn't try lunch, but items there that caught my eye were the Grilled Cheese with a trio of basic cheeses for $5, Pulled Pork Sandwich for $8, and a Grouper Wrap for $9.]
We opted to skip the appetizers and dive right in with two entrees, I went with the Cafe Con Carne, a 6 ounce cut of filet mignon that was coffee encrusted and paired with a merlot reduction and roquefort cheese for $16.95, and my dining partner went with the previously mentioned baked half chicken over red rice.
All the dinner items come with a house salad offered with basic dressing choices (I rather liked the truffled honey vinaigrette.) They were modest in size, fresh and came with a choice of two appetizers that appears intended to rotate with items like asparagus, collards, red rice, baked potato, and sweet potato fries.
And now I'd like to preface this next bit, they've only been open for a few short weeks over the holiday and we hit them on a Monday night but they were clearly having some sort of kitchen issues. My filet was at best luke warm when it came out while my fries were pipping hot; my dining partner's chicken was hot and her fries and rice were anything but. I'm thinking our experience is probably a fluke as they get used to timing their diverse dishes.
Still, the chicken was good, moist, and flavorful. While my filet was cold it was still more than edible and would likely have been a great flavor combination had it been warmer.
Factory Creek Fish Company is a good local experience and if you're looking to mix up your routine it's certainly worth a try and a good alternative to the other local water gem that is 11th Street Dockside. Personally if I had it to do over again I'd catch them for an early dinner to see the sunset or give their lunch a try.
It's probably safe to say that if you like Emily's, you'll like FC2.
They're at 71 Sea Island Parkway on Lady's Island. (843) 379-3288.