south hills market and cafe (shmc) – Bridge Road Shops, Charleston, WV
NOTE: Beginning November 2009, SHMC is open for lunch on Mondays.
While googling (Google – it is website you can use to look things up) for a picture of a Charleston restaurant I came across the south hills market and cafe in this fine blog. Since I don’t live in South Hills this place had slid under my “foodar”. When I saw the pictures I knew the Five would have to dine here on Tuesday. I didn’t realize that this had been the Bridge Road Bistro’s former sister store, but it was clear that the interior had Chef Wong finger prints all over it. He is a top notch restaurant designer. The new owners are doing an excellent job with this space.
The first thing I said after walking in was, “they sell beer!” and not just any beer. They are serving a great selection of microbrews. They also have many wines to choose from. The small dining area is surrounded by deli and bakery cases, which display, dare I say, “food porn!” In the cold cases they were displaying roasted chicken, meatloaf, and delicious looking salads. The bakery case was full of cookies “as big as your head” for a very reasonable $1.55. Cookie flavors included chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, gingerbread and the flavor of the week – coconut pecan.
We were seated at one of the approximately ten tables in high back upholstered chairs. The server who was very well versed in the menu and specials did a great job describing the selections. He pointed out the “Build your Own Burger” special for $7.50, which is not on the printed menu. I didn’t bother looking much farther than the burger. Since I was told the wild mushrooms are cooked in sherry I opted for a 8oz Angus burger topped with the mushrooms, caramelized onions, and goat cheese. This is all placed inside of a toasted brioche roll from Charleston Bread. Please note that each topping is an additional 35 cents. They could include one in the base price, but I can swallow 35 cents.
You do get a choice between the popular Ms. Vickie’s chips or a market side. Do get a market side when you go. I had the orrichiette pasta salad, which Susan describes in detail below. I would have preferred to drink one of the microbrews for lunch, but had to have a diet soda instead. What is with this Puritan based culture in the United States. If I worked in France, Spain or Germany I would be required to consume at lunch so my coworkers could tolerate me after lunch.
Instead of beer to improve my mood I settled for a huge, soft and chewy gingerbread cookie, which by itself could get Fork You’s highest rating. If you eat here you must get a cookie to go just like everyone does with the Cheesecake Factory’s signature dessert. This was a great meal and I give it my first FIVE Fork rating!
Dining Alert – The shmc will be closed for their annual summer vacation June 22 – July 1. When they reopen they will be serving lunch and now dinner (reservation only)!
I was a bit apprehensive to try this new place Daniel suggested. Due to my disdain for mayonnaise, I was hoping there were choices on the menu that did not involve that particular ingredient. I was greatly relieved when we walked in the door and noticed the case with meatloaf and roasted chicken. Next to that was a case containing several different pasta or vegetable salads, crab cakes, potato cakes and a potato gratin that kept calling my name.
We were seated in nicely upholstered red and teal chairs at a table-for-six altered for us quickly by the staff from a former table-for-four using the flip out leaves. Then we received the menus and I went to work. I don’t like to read. I do, however, love to page through recipes in cookbooks and I love to study menus. I read a new menu through at least twice and then go back a third time to the items that really catch my attention. On this menu I was most intrigued by the chicken Caesar wrap, the Ham and Brie sandwich, and the roasted turkey on cranberry bread. I would have eaten that gratin, too, and almost asked if they could pop that in the microwave for me and give me a fork.
I ultimately decided on the Ham and Brie – it was the brie that reeled me in. And it was delicious. There was a good amount of cheese on my bread, but I could have doubled it and been even happier. Besides the brie, the sandwich boasts thickly sliced Virginia baked ham (reminded me of bacon, it was so thick) and mustard-mayo which I declined, of course. Now let’s talk bread. The bread was almost better than the cheese. Almost. I ordered the half sandwich which was the size of regular sandwich bread you’d buy in a bag on the bread aisle of the grocery store. It was toasted….with plenty of butter. It was crispy, but not too crispy. It was brown, but not too brown. It was just right.
Note to restaurants: Not everyone likes pickles. If you don’t like pickles, you certainly don’t like pickle juice contaminating your sandwich and/chips (fries) or whatever else is on your plate. When my food came out I had to IMMEDIATELY remove the offensive green item and luckily, there was not much juice. If you feel you must serve a pickle, please, PLEASE put it in something or on another dish. Pickles have a very strong flavor which you can’t “pick off” after it has already messed up the rest of your food.
For the $5.00 I paid, I not only received the half sandwich, but I also got my choice of kettle chips or market side (one of the pretty salads in the case I noticed when I arrived). I decided on the orrichiette pasta salad – it consisted of orrichiette (little ears, in Italian), spinach leaves, sun-dried tomatoes, feta and black olive slices. The portion was about the size of a tea cup. They did not go the cheap route on this salad. Most places load up on the pasta and include only a few gems of the extras in order to produce a large quantity for a low price. This salad had more extras than pasta pieces in it. I had a piece of sun-dried tomato and a feta crumble for every piece of pasta. It was finished with a nice, tangy vinaigrette.
Some may say that the portions don’t justify the price. I would respond by asking them to examine the ingredients. The ham, brie, and salad ingredients were top quality. I didn’t have el cheapo deli meat thinly sliced and flopped onto my bread. Perhaps at other places you would receive a larger portion for the price, but I don’t think you’ll see the same level of quality.
Soda price was ok at $1.50, but your refills are limited to what you can pour out of the 20-ounce bottle they bring you with a tall glass of ice. I greatly prefer fountain sodas. No, what I would REALLY have preferred was a glass of red wine like the lucky lady two tables away, obviously not on her lunch hour from work, like I was. And speaking of lunch hour, it’s called lunch HOUR, because an hour’s all ya get. My biggest disappointment about the café was the slowness. If I were there on Saturday it would have been different. I would have had that glass of red wine and sat in the comfy chairs facing the wine bins so I could peruse the selection. But it was a Monday, at noon, with a group of five people dressed in suits receiving separate checks. That screams “lunch hour”. Because of the slowness, we will not be able to frequent this lovely lunch spot as often as we might like. After all, there are at least two other menu items I want to try.
I hate to be too negative about the service because I think that’s the style of the café – I felt like they meant to be relaxed. Our server was friendly and open to questions and discussion about the menu. He had to be part of the ownership or management team of the café – he was knowledgeable about local chefs and Charleston restaurant history and chatted with us on the topic.
I know I am supposed to be on the low-carb plan, but this was a special occasion – our maiden voyage to a new eatery. And it got even worse. When I paid, several of my colleagues purchased the amazingly large homemade cookies in the case right beside the cash register. They looked so delicious. And they were HUGE. The gingerbread cookie Dan got was the size of a luncheon plate. The chocolate-chocolate chip Misty got was almost as big and about an inch thick. Normally my powers of dessert refusal are pretty strong, but I just had to have a taste of Misty’s cookie. And after the taste, I just had to have another taste. The chocolate flavor was superb – more of a dark chocolate taste then milk, which I prefer. The texture of the cookie was perfect – oh so slightly crispy on the outside and soft inside. And the price was a steal at $1.55. It’s worth winding yourself up Bridge Road just to get a cookie.
I really like this place and I want to go back. I think I’ll take my Teays Valley girlfriend that thinks the C-Gallery is the be-all, end-all of cafes and then we’ll visit the quaint shops of Bridge Road after fueling up on one of those cookies for dessert. I can’t quite bring myself to give out another top rating, so I will award south hills market and café FOUR FORKS.
Ok. ..My post is a little later than Susan’s and Daniel’s. This is always the case- they are just so excited by food. Daniel is always trying to get me to write quicker and reminds me to post often. Usually, I make the deadline- but this time, I was a slacker, and didn’t. Daniel- I will try harder in the future- I promise.
After reading the menu, I was debating between the South Hill’s club (with turkey, ham, and bacon) and the chicken salad sandwich. When I have this problem, I always decide at the last minute- usually when the waiter/waitress has to take my order. This time, I went with the half size portion of the chicken salad sandwich. This one had grapes and large pieces of pecans, topped with lettuce and tomato on ciabatta bread. I just love a good, sweet, fruity, chicken salad and ciabatta bread is my favorite- so I think this is what tipped the scales for me. The chicken was very flavorful and not cut in chunks- it was more of a pulled chicken salad- like it had been a whole roasted chicken and then pulled from the bones. The ciabatta bread was toasted on the outside and soft on the inside- just the way I like it. The sandwich was great!
I chose the potato chips as my side. I noticed they had my new favorite kind of chips. The extra crispy kettle chips- and I really love the combination of potato chips and chicken salad.
I also ordered a coke- it came in a bottle- which I don’t like. But they did give you a glass filled with ice- this made it much more acceptable in my book.
As we went up to the register to pay, I decided I would buy a cookie. I was trying to resist, but I couldn’t. They looked so tasty and they were very reasonably priced. Again, I had a problem deciding. My favorite cookie is the classic chocolate chip and I usually don’t stray from my favorites. However, the chocolate, chocolate chip seemed to be calling my name. So, I took a chance and got that one. What a good choice. It was fluffy, chewy, and chocolaty.
There were only a few changes I would make the next time I visit:
- I would get the entire chicken salad sandwich instead of the half portion. It just wasn’t enough for me. When I was finished eating, I was still slightly hungry.
- I would choose one of the market sides that the others mentioned above. Again, there just wasn’t enough for me. And they quality of the market sides seemed far superior to the chips.
- The pickle- I agree with Susan’s comment above on the pickle. I can’t stand pickle juice on my food.
I rate the south hill’s market and café- THREE Forks.