September 2015

Street Meet – The American Tavern A homemade evolution

Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Evolution is a series of adaptations, tailored to promote survival. Sounds rather stuffy unless you are peering into a microscope in a science lab or studying wild boar on the African veldt. However, the food evolution that has taken place over the past 10 years at Street Meet – The American Tavern is an evolution of revolutionary proportions, dramatically more exciting and decidedly delicious. Celebrating their tenth anniversary, Street Meet is introducing a new menu, offering a healthier spin on the food foundation on which they were founded, where their enthusiasm for what they do is literally palatable.

The Basciano family opened Street Meet in October 2005, setting out to make homemade versions of American street-bar-tavern food—the kind synonymous with 1930s America. “The idea with the design of the bar and the menu came from the 1930s tavern, where restaurants were serving all immigrant recipes (the Germans, the Italians, the French). This is where the po’ boys, the bratwurst, the hot dogs, and cheese steaks all originated. We wanted to go back in time and do it homemade. Over the course of the last 70 or 80 years, American food had gotten away from making everything homemade from scratch, and had become fast food. We wanted to turn back time and re-define American food,” said owner Carey Basciano. “We felt that if we made everything from scratch, the taste difference would be significant and really set us apart from our over-processed competition.”

That first 2005 Street Meet menu offered cheese steaks served on a bun with French fries; deep-fried cooking was standard operating procedure, and classic comfort food reigned. Basciano wrote the menu and established the restaurant’s culinary bedrock of fresh, homemade food. “We roast whole turkeys, we smoke our own pork, and whole prime ribs. We get all our beef from Fresh Market. We use fresh local produce, as much as we can get from the South Carolina Farmers Market. Our soups are homemade, not from a bag. We cook with whole ingredients from scratch. Even our chicken wings come in fresh, not frozen.”

Succulent whole roasted meats and homemade soups remain the menu’s foundation; however, over time, customers and culinary science have facilitated change. “When we first opened, we wanted to cook like the immigrants did 80 years ago, with whole foods. Over the past 10 years, people started asking us to meet their specific dietary requirements. The next step going into our 10-year anniversary is losing the French fries and the bun,” Basciano said. “Taking those same whole roasted meats and vegetables and serving them in a bowl or on a lettuce wrap. Taking what we do to the next level.”

The evolution of the restaurant’s menu is the result of the combined efforts of Basciano, his sister and general manager Nicole Basciano, and his wife, Shelby Basciano, local trainer, occupational therapist, and Street Meet administrator, based on customer requests along with a growing awareness of the power of food to promote health.

The menu progression began with the addition of vegetarian options in each section: vegetarian appetizers, soups, hot dogs, burgers (that’s right, veggie hot dogs and burgers), sandwiches, wraps, and kid’s menu.

Then came the $7 lunch menu, with mid-size portions and iced tea included, followed by a creative wrap menu, and the addition of superfoods including grass-fed elk, tuna, salmon, and nutrient-rich spinach. Next, Basciano began creating specials suited to specific diets, listing nutritional profiles with selections such as a super-immunity salad, Paleo nachos, and low-carb lettuce wraps.

“There were already so many healthy options on the menu, you just had to tweak it and make special requests,” Basciano says of how the latest menu came to fruition, in order to meet customer demand both fitness- and nutrition-wise. With 14 primary protein options, smoked and roasted in-house, domestic shrimp and seafood, grilled vegetables, plenty of gluten-free options (including buns and breads), and black bean, quinoa, and veggie bowls, the possible combinations are nearly limitless. Street Meet’s newest menu helps guide your choices and meet your needs with tips, calorie counts, and valuable information.

“We’re taking the original menu and getting on-trend. For example, you can take the whole roasted prime rib and have it put on a salad, or put a burger on a salad. For example, if you find a sandwich that sounds good, you can get it on a salad, or a whole wheat wrap, or on a lettuce wrap. You can take the proteins and put them on a low-cal protein bowl, or put it on a low-carb veggie bowl,” Basciano said.

The fact that Street Meet is a local, family business is a happy bonus for the Bascianos. “I love raising our family here,” Carey Basciano said. “Owning your own business provides so many teaching opportunities for your kids.”

Islanders for 23 years, the Bascianos appreciate the value of owning a neighborhood eatery where their customers are their community, and their community supports their family endeavors. “Our customers are an eclectic group, and I love that,” Basciano said. “We stay open late. When the resort workers get off, they come and hang out alongside couples stopping by after an evening at the theater. Then area visitors find us, and it’s pretty great.”

Make no mistake, Street Meet is still the place to indulge in your favorite “cheat” meal, or indulge in some full-blown, classic comfort food, with a side of fries, of course. Famous for their fried Oreo dessert, the “street” has certainly not been taken out of Street Meet. Over the years, their list of awards in a variety of culinary competitions illustrates their ability to successfully diversify and satisfy quite nearly everyone: 2015 Island Packet’s Best Bar Award, Best Fish-n-Chips, Best Sauce, Best Bar, Best Bartender, and Best Sauce at the island’s Italian Festival.

It’s an evolution of revolutionary proportions, adapting and adopting a menu with diversity in-mind; the ancestors would be proud. 

Street Meet – The American Tavern is located at 95 Mathews Drive, Suite D11, Port Royal Plaza on Hilton Head Island. For more information, call (843) 842-2570 or visit streetmeethhi.com.

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