November 2012

Decisions, Decisions

Author: David Tobias | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Have you ever been paralyzed by a decision? Big decisions can be a crisis and sometimes not making one is the only reasonable solution. It’s the same with small decisions, like deciding between the chicken noodle or tomato Florentine soup. Instead of giving up and deciding not to order either, sometimes it’s great to get an independent suggestion to try half a cup of both.

Joni Gianguzzi and Carolyn Baltz, co-owners of Market Street Café in Coligny, may not be able to help with big move decisions, a job option conundrum or a couple pondering whether or not to have kids, but they have taken resolution of life’s smaller decisions to an art form.

Let’s say you have a child with simple pizza tastes—cheese only please—whereas the parents’ preferences tend toward the more exotic. Dad wants the meat lovers and mom prefers the Greek. Who wins when a three-way coin toss is not an option? At Market Street, it can be a win-win-win when servers seek solutions and the kitchen can accommodate.

Gianguzzi and Baltz both like that approach because, since 1985 when the restaurant first opened—and for the last 15 years since they’ve owned it together—the constant has been a passion to please their customers.

“It’s very seldom we say no,” Gianguzzi said, referring to requests for special or split orders. “We’ll go into our kitchen, and it won’t even look like our kitchen: no this, add that, half this, half that, half wants hot, half wants cold. But we’re willing to do it, and you know what? We love it, because they’re happy.”

“They,” are the summer crowd and scads of repeat customers, like Bill and Blanche Dold, originally from just outside of Chicago, now full-time residents of Hilton Head Island and several-times-a-week regulars at Market Street.

Blanche holds up her cup of soda and whispers in confidence across the table, “Do you know what this is? It’s a Diet Coke. They serve only Pepsi here, but I only drink Diet Coke. So they keep a couple of my Diet Cokes in the back just for me.”
Call it what you will: going the extra mile, service above and beyond, taking it to the next level—whatever you call it, it’s doting on a customer without going so far as to pander.

Baltz realizes exceptional service is essential and that, to some extent, they’ve spoiled their customers. But what’s really at the heart of Market Street is an original menu that changes only when it needs to, consistently good food (especially fabulous soups and extraordinary desserts) and a clichéd but accurate “Cheers style” comfortable ambiance to the place, where most of the servers know your name, even if you’ve only been there a time or two.

That level of comfort, plus dependably excellent food, make the Market Street Café a reliable bet for friends and family visiting or for full-time and part-time residents who occasionally struggle to decide among Hilton Head Island’s hundreds of restaurant options. Sometimes it’s the simplest piece of a decision that tips the balance. Like Market Street’s soups, the true test of a great restaurant, which truly are amazing.
“We have great soup makers, and people love our soups,” Baltz said. “I think the funky kinds are fun, like Cream of BLT, Lemon Spinach Orzo, Cream of Vidalia Onion or Buffalo Chicken. People love it.”

While specialty soups enhance a pretty consistent Market Street menu overall, sometimes a change on the soup menu, influenced by creative thinkers, can be good. Such was the case with the popular New England Clam Chowder, which was a staple every Friday for 26 years until someone (a clam chowder fan who was probably there on a Thursday) said, “Now let’s think about this; why not put chowder on your menu all the time?”

Stroke of genius!

Now every day is clam chowder day, which helps meet the café’s promise of a non-cream and a cream soup (in addition to clam chowder) available daily.

Like the soups, everything at Market Street is homemade, even the pizza dough. And the prices are reasonable. In fact, both owners are so customer sensitive that several years ago when wholesale prices were rising precipitously, they decided to poll their customers to decide whether or not a slight price hike would be accepted. It was and they did. But the fact that they actually reached out to their customers to help them decide still seems remarkable.

For those salivating right now and checking their hand-held GPS’s to find Market Street Café on a map, good luck. The name can be confusing. There may not even be a Market Street on Hilton Head Island, and even if there is, the Market Street Café isn’t on it. The café faces North Forest Beach and is located on the west side of Coligny Plaza.

The café’s name comes from its roots in Boston (where there is a Market Street) and where the restaurant’s first owner’s grandfather had a groceria. Chuck Burgolopoulos’s heritage also gave the menu a sizable number of Greek dishes from which to choose, including a Greek grilled cheese, a traditional gyro (or the island alternative with chicken or shrimp), a Greek salad (of course) and something exotic called Souvlakia, described as “tender chunks of lamb, onions and peppers, sautéed in lemon juice and garlic with lettuce and tomatoes.”

Baltz, however, is quick to point out that the restaurant is far from exclusively Greek. Salads, subs, pizza and mouth-watering entrées like Spinach Pie and Spaghetti Marinara round out a menu that is extraordinarily diverse.

So, as always, it comes down to decisions, and in the case of the Market Street Café, the toughest part is to choose carrot cake or bread pudding, cheese cake or the unbelievable key lime pie.

Admit it, sometimes decisions are easy.

For more information call 843.686.4976 or visit online at www.marketstreetcafe.com.

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