Restaurant Review: Old Town Dispensary

The Old Town Dispensary is an indoor/outdoor restaurant on Calhoun Street. Known for great live music and a solid menu, the Old Town Dispensary was originated by Matt Jording who also owns the Sage Room on Hilton Head Island. I will tell you in advance, we like this place and recommend the grouper.

rud·der·less  (rŭd′ər-lĭs) – adj. 1. Lacking in direction, control, or coherence

While walking around the Old Town area, we thought we might want to get something to eat. It was nearly 9pm on a Friday night and we wanted to make sure our intended destination was serving. We called from 4 or 5 blocks away and they confirmed they served until 10 on weekends. Upon arriving we saw a few tables outside that were empty. We approached the Hostess Stand and inquired. She said those tables were reserved and there was a 15 minute wait for outside seating. We asked if there was a wait for inside, and she said there was not. So we went inside and went to the table we had we had suggested was suitable for us to eat. The hostess took no action. We sat and waited for about 10 minutes. Then I got up and waited in line at the bar. They were quite busy and one of the servers nearly ran me over as I guess I was blocking her lane. Good hip check lady – I guess we aren’t much for hockey in the south – who knew dining was a reasonable alternative?

I waited my turn and spoke to one of the bartenders. I was ready to order as we knew we wanted – Mic Ultra for her, dark beer on tap for me and the grouper. The bartender did get our beverages and asked if we wanted a server. I said that was fine. I returned to the table, and the bartender dropped off our drinks. Then we waited … and waited …and waited. I did see the bartender go into the backroom (private server area) and I assume he told someone we were here. It’s hard to tell if there was a manager as it was kind of a free for all. My wife was a career server with 25 years of experience on Hilton Head and I worked on both sides of the house managing kitchens and servers for 15 years before opening my own (not restaurant) business. We knew what we were looking at, and it was chaos.

After about 25 more minutes, we had about finished our drinks and concluded, we would not be served food in a timely manner. We laughed at the crazy scene and decided to leave. We knew we wouldn’t be missed. I again fought my way to the bar to pay and answered 5 or 6 questions for a different bartender so she could figure out how to check us out. We were clearly flying under the radar.

Some version of the band Cornbred was playing and they are always good, so we hung around outside for a short while catching a few tunes, finishing our beverages. We noticed the table we had initially inquired about was still empty, so we went and sat down. 5 minutes later the Hostess approached us and asked if we were going to eat? I briefly explained to her our experience the past 35 minutes and she started to explain to us about the restrictions of that table before deciding walking away without completing that thought was for the best. We also wondered off into the darkness shortly thereafter and laughed durning our walk home knowing that we could have easily left without paying – who would have remembered us – clearly no one. We did leave a 20% tip as all good F & B people do – despite receiving literally no service. The irony was not lost on us.

Will we go back – sure! Why not. It’s a good place. Although we may skip Friday night searches for food. I guess it’s like everything in Bluffton – the demand is huge and the quality is hit and miss. It’s a “Habitat for Amenities” as one of my good friends used to joke, along with “It could be worse.”