Bistro 217 Restaurant Review

June 2022
Written By: 
Paul Grimshaw
Photographs by: 
Paul Grimshaw and Scott Smallin

Try lunch or dinner; both are a culinary delight

A casual atmosphere and sophisticated menu offerings have made Bistro 217 a popular Pawleys Island destination for some 18 years. The fried shrimp Bahn Mi (pictured) is a Vietnamese-inspired sandwich loaded with flavor and plenty of large, succulent shrimp.

Part of the trendy revival, growth and longstanding reputation of the food scene in Pawleys Island, belong to Bistro 217, which wows guests each day for lunch and dinner and has grown a loyal clientele since first opening in 2004.

Co-owner and chef Adam Kirby, along with business partner/co-owner Anne Hardee, forge a fusion of Asian-Pacific and Southern tastes, with locally sourced ingredients, when possible, to create remarkable meals. 

As the summer crowds descend upon The Hammock Coast (so named to include Georgetown County’s coastal towns), families, young couples and travelers of all ages with varying tastes and appetites have been finding their way to Bistro 217 for some 18 years. These guests come back for the comfortable indoor/outdoor surroundings, diverse menu (including a children’s menu) and dedication to the food arts, able to please the most discriminating diners in their parties. 

For lunch you’ll find burgers, BLTs, hot and cold sandwiches, some seven entrée-worthy salads, soups and combos, all created with the unique Bistro 217 flair, but the creative menu continues with rotating daily specials, and isn’t just limited to dinner. The fried shrimp Bahn Mi is a Vietnamese-inspired sandwich that starts with a split, lightly grilled baguette, loaded with pickled onions, carrots, jalapenos, spicy cucumber, yuzu aioli and a generous portion of large, batter-fried shrimp. Served with locally grown sweet potato fries (to be dipped in Comeback Sauce) and a small field green salad, each bite is an explosion of flavors and the fresh-vegetable crunch is grounded by a Lowcountry favorite, fried shrimp; big ones at that, both tender and juicy.

The petite crab cake dish is a both a dinner and lunch-time appetizer. It’s a simple dish; rich, lump crab cakes with just enough binder to hold together, and served over southern chow (kind of a picked relish), with tartar sauce. The presentation alone is impressive, but a single bite unleashes the fresh tastes of the ocean, with plenty of lump crabmeat, easy to see in each forkful. 

Available anytime, the Asian Ribs are a shareable plate of mini baby back pork ribs with a sweet Mongolian glaze. Fall off the bone tender, a nice char/crust, and every bite delicious.

The restaurant is deceptively large. It’s a bit hard to tell where it starts and stops when outside looking in, seating around 250. Situated in the Downtown Pawleys restaurant/retail development, Bistro 217 is adjacent to The Rustic Table, also co-owned by Kirby and Hardee. The Driftwood Mercantile gift shop, another venture by the pair, sells restaurant merchandise, jewelry, shirts and hats, cool foods, fresh-made key lime pies and bottled Comeback Sauce. 

An open-air courtyard flanks a large, rain-protected indoor/outdoor bar and dining area. The south end of the building seats just as many with an indoor-only bar and dining room.

The atmosphere is lively and conducive to crowds and larger groups, but there’s plenty of intimate seating away from potentially animated gatherings. But what about the food? What’s Kirby’s trick?

(Left) The Asian Ribs with a Mongolian glaze are a Bistro 217 favorite combining  grilled, fall-off-the-bone pork, with a vegetable chutne; (Right) One of the house-made desserts to tempt you after lunch or dinner, including a variety of homemade ice-creams,churned daily in the Bistro kitchen.

“We literally make everything here, dude,” says Kirby, with an almost exasperated sigh. He routinely puts in long hours as chef/owner, but will take time, even in the middle of the rush, to thank guests for coming in. 

“We even make our own ice cream. All of our desserts are homemade,” he says. “I’ve got seven ice-cream makers in the kitchen, right now, churning ice cream.” Kirby was named 2017’s South Carolina Chef Ambassador, and thanks to his extensive culinary training (Le Cordon Blue) and experience, mostly in Hawaii, but also in San Francisco, Ca., Portland, Or. and his boyhood home in Atlanta, he’s created a Pacific Rim/Southern fusion menu with inventive, creative and palate-pleasing meals for all.

The dinner menu is loaded with seafood, including locally caught flounder, trout, salmon, a lobster/shrimp/scallop/fettuccini dish, chicken, filet mignon, braised short ribs and nightly specials. A bar menu is available as well.

For dessert, you might try the coconut cream pie with house-made guava ice cream.  Seven other desserts may tempt you, including a flight with three homemade ice creams of your choice, a warm white chocolate bread pudding, fried apple beignets, chocolate lava cake and more.

A full bar and award-winning wine list round out the offerings at Bistro 217. The place is a gem of the South Strand’s Hammock Coast, and a restaurant that should be on every foodie’s radar. 

Bistro 217
Open Mon-Sat (lunch) 11 am–3 pm and dinner 5–9pm (9:30 on Fri & Sat).
10707 Ocean Hwy, Pawleys Island
(843) 235-8217