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FACES BEHIND THE FOOD SCENE: Andrew Carmines

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ANDREW CARMINES HUDSON’S SEAFOOD HOUSE ON THE DOCKS

Question: After flooding from king tides in 2015 and then Hurricane Matthew damage in 2016, do you feel your restaurant has some good karma coming its way in 2017? 

Answer: We have a lot to look forward to in the future. The challenges brought by Hurricane Mathew made us appreciate what we have and gave us a renewed commitment to making it as good as it can be. That being said, I don’t want to do that again for a little while.

Q: How close are things to normal at the moment? How is the new dock coming along?

A: Things are really exciting right now. The deck and the dock are looking great. Dan Anderson and Barrier Island Contractors have been a godsend. They are working quickly and diligently to produce what we think is going to be a huge improvement on what we had before. There is that silver lining again. We plan to have the work completed by the end of February.

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Q: Did the storm have any effect on your oyster beds? 

A: Our cultured oysters took a pretty big hit. We have very few left after the storm. We had some serious issues with shifting sand and a lack of low tides to access the beds following the storm. Unfortunately, we are going to have to start over in the fall. Rob, our head oysterman, is out picking wild local singles every day for the restaurant, but the cultured ones won’t be very plentiful this year. That’s farming, I guess. The nice thing about oysters is we can always grow more.

Q: Your family purchased Hudson’s in 1975. How important has the restaurant been in your life? 

A: Many people don’t know this, but the little office across the street was where we lived when I was born. Miss Bessie, our longest-standing employee, used to be baby-sit me as an infant. I started sweeping the parking lot for cigarette butts when I was 6, bussing tables at 12, checking in shrimp at the dock at 13, checking in orders at 14, and so on. I was never good enough to wait tables though … still not. The staff is family. Miss Bessie now watches over my daughters at First Presbyterian on Sundays. You could say the restaurant is pretty important to our entire family. 

Q: Do you plan on making it a large part of your kids’ lives as well? 

A: They will certainly have to do their part when they are old enough, but I won’t force them into a career in the restaurant business. My parents handled it the right way. They never asked David or me to consider taking over the restaurant. It just kind of worked out that way. Alice, Milly and Oak will have that option if they choose, but it will be their decision. It’s not for everyone. You have to thrive on pressure and have thick skin.   

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Q: Many visitors that come to the Lowcountry want to eat at a “good” local seafood restaurant. What do you feel makes Hudson’s the perfect spot? 

A: The seafood we serve is better than any restaurant that I know of. We grow and harvest our own oysters. We buy all our shrimp from one of two boats, processing it all in-house. We run a refrigerated truck up and down the Carolina coast, buying whole fish directly from various commercial vessels and processing it in-house. We also have a blue crab fisherman on salary and a dedicated commercial stone crab fisherman. We have built and operate a state-of-the-art seawater system to shed out soft shell crabs in the spring, ensuring that they are of the highest quality. We work very hard to ensure that we are serving the best seafood available.

Our staff has a good knowledge of seafood and a passion for what they do. They treat our guests like guests in their own homes. 

The restaurant is surrounded by water on three sides, creating the best waterfront and sunset views on the island. The indoor areas were all recently renovated, and the historic portions restored. The outdoor dining is over the water and is the only one of its kind on the island.

There is a lot of history here as well. Hudson’s is the longest-standing restaurant on the island. For all those reasons, it truly is the “perfect spot.”

Q: What is the most popular item on your menu? 

A: It depends on the time of year. The next two months will be oysters, then soft shell crabs followed by shrimp. Our local customers know that they should order seasonally. There are a lot of good fish options in the spring and summer as well. We tend to start seeing local swordfish and local mahi in the spring.

Q: You are heavily involved in many community events, such as setting off fireworks on the Fourth of July and helping with the Community Thanksgiving Dinner. What are you most proud of? 

A: I am just happy to do my part. It is an honor to be a steward of these community events. They can be a challenge and make you feel good inside. I am getting into conservation now, too. I am on the board at the Port Royal Sound Foundation. It is a great thing for Beaufort County, and I am excited to see where it goes. 

Q: The Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival is just around the corner. It has grown into one of the island’s biggest events. What do you think makes it stand out? 

A: There is something for everyone, and everything we raise gets donated back into the local and state community. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t working at some of the events because they look like so much fun. This year, we’ve expanded on our talent and schedule of events. There is more than seafood being showcased.

Q: Other than the main event on Feb. 25, what Seafood Festival event are you most excited about? 

A: I am excited about all of it, but the Oyster Roast and Pig Picking at Waddell Mariculture Center is my favorite. Three pit masters roasting three whole hogs in three different ways. Local oysters picked the same day as they are being served. Whole chickens roasted over a wood fire. Good bluegrass music from Town Mountain.  Homemade sausage, chopped pork barbecue and everything from Service Brewing Co. to batch bourbon. Come on. 

Q: Favorite movie?

A: “Unforgiven.”

Q: Favorite food?

A:  Breakfast at Palmetto Bay Sunrise Café with my girls.     

Q: Favorite national band?

A: Widespread Panic.

Q: Favorite local band?

A: Lowcountry Boil. 

Q: What is the last book you read? 

A: “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer.

Q: If you were forced to move off the island, where would you go? 

A: New Zealand: Good fishing, good hunting, great surf.

Q: What is something about Andrew Carmines many people don’t know? 

A: I went to college at Ole Miss. Hotty Toddy.

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PHOTOS BY MICHAEL B. RITTERBECK