Hilton Head, South Carolina
An unlikely friendship born of music years ago sparks a new restaurant on the island of Hilton Head.
Kind of Blue, located at 19 Dunnagans Alley in the space that was once Ruby Lee’s South, marks its official grand opening on Thursday.
The owners of the restaurant and concert hall are Graeme Tosh and Stephen Connolly, Canadian businessmen, and Sterlin Colvin of Bluffton. Colvin is a locally well-known musician and singer who performs with his wife under the banner of Sterlin and Shuvette.
How did the trio become partners in a Hilton Head company?
Tosh and Connolly have been in the restaurant business in Canada for decades. During one of Tosh’s regular vacations to Hilton Head, he heard Sterlin and Shuvette play and invited the pair to play on Valentine’s Day at one of his Toronto-area restaurants.
“We were a little hesitant to go there,” Colvin said. “The more we talked to him, the more we decided to go ahead and try.”
The trip was a success, although the sub-zero temperatures in February made them happy to return to South Carolina. They were willing to travel occasionally, however, and from there a friendship developed.
Then Tosh offered a business partnership.
“He wanted us to settle up there. He was buying another club,” Colvin said. But there was the matter of those cold winters and Colvin’s extended family in the Lowcountry.
“In the meantime, we talked, ‘Graeme, why don’t you come and partner with me here?”
“Family is more important than business,” Tosh said.
Before they could start the business, the COVID pandemic shut everything down, and Tosh and Connolly were stuck in Canada.
“We paid rent for 16 months during COVID,” Tosh said. Then supply chain issues made outfitting a brand new kitchen a longer than usual process.
Finally, in August, Kind of Blue was ready for its soft opening.
“We are all in agreement now,” Tosh said. “We try to learn more about the community and be part of the community.”
One such lesson concerns American happy hour.
“People know their booze, they know the food, they know the entertainment,” Tosh said.
While music permeates every part of the business – even the bartender is a talented singer and drummer – it’s not just a bar or just a live music venue. Food is a priority.
“You can get a cheap drink anywhere, but you can’t get good food everywhere,” Tosh said. “Everything is homemade, so nothing comes out of a bag and goes into a deep fryer.”
Some of the menu highlights include the Blue Brothers Jambalaya pasta filled with sausage and chunk crabmeat; Queen’s back ribs served with fries and coleslaw; and On Blueberry Hill, Roasted Chicken Breast with Frangelico Blueberry Cream Sauce.
There are decidedly southern touches like shrimp and grits or okra gumbo, but also Canadian specialties. Diners can try poutine, fries topped with gravy and cheese.
The restaurant offers three types of seats. Those dining up front with the musicians will pay an additional entertainment fee, usually around $10, which goes directly to those on stage, but there is also seating in a separate indoor area for those who prefer a quieter meal or on the terrace outside. In total, the restaurant can accommodate up to 230 people.
Entertainment is an eclectic mix featuring local artists including Sterlin and Shuvette, Ear Candy, Brian Simpson, Dean St. Hillaire and Reggie Deas, among others. On Tuesday nights, Colvin revived his popular “Dueling Pianos” number.
Colvin, who coordinates the entertainment, plans to bring in a Queen tribute band and a Roberta Flack tribute act.
The opening weekend schedule also includes Huxey Scott and Kenny Munshaw; guitarist Michael Scott; and Tru Gentlemen. The complete range is published on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
“We’re having fun with it and looking for success,” Colvin said. “The people who came were very receptive.
“It’s not the same every night.”
If you are going to
What: kind of blue
Where: 19 Dunnagan’s Alley, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Hours: Noon to midnight Monday to Friday; 4 p.m. to midnight on Saturday; 10 a.m. to midnight on Sunday