April 2008

Homestyle Cookin' at Plantation Cafe

Author: Linda Hopkins

While I enjoy and appreciate exotic foods and fancy presentations as much as anyone, sometimes I just want Mama’s meatloaf and a mound of mashed potatoes—not fingerlings pressed through a ricer with crème fraîche and a drizzle of truffle oil, but plain Idaho potatoes, vigorously beaten with real butter and whole milk. Call it comfort food. A happy meal. Love on a plate.

Since my mother and grandmother are busy flipping pancakes and serving up collards and cornbread in the southern district of Heaven, when I’m looking for the gastronomic equivalent of a warm hug, I head to Plantation Café.

Most of us who live here and many who vacation on the island have discovered Plantation Café’s Pope Avenue location, where folks have been flocking for breakfast and lunch since 1974. But did you know that you can now soothe your soul at a second location in Port Royal Plaza? That’s because owner, Vic Neeley knows a good thing when he sees it.

Originally from Columbia, SC, Neeley has been vacationing here since the mid-1970s. After college, he spent 25 years running a chain of Waffle House restaurants and learning everything there is to know about the business of feeding people. Four years ago, he moved permanently to Hilton Head Island and bought Callahan’s sports bar, snapping up the original Plantation Café and Deli just two years later.

“It was a good fit for me. I love being out among the people,” said Neeley, explaining his up-close-and-personal approach to serving his customers. In fact, you are more likely to see Neeley running food than sitting in his office crunching numbers. That’s because he knows that the real profits come from making people happy.

With a well-established reputation and growing clientele, Neeley decided to take his business a step further, with the intent of sharing the love beyond the bridge. But when lack of adequate parking closed the door on his plan to open a second café in Bluffton, the window of opportunity flew open at Port Royal Plaza. According to Neeley, buying out Scratch Kitchen just made sense. “Again, it was a good fit. I liked the area, and it was a fairly easy changeover,” he said.

With his tried-and-true formula for success, Neeley brought the south-end menu and some of his seasoned staff members to the new location in May, 2007. Since then, long time customers and island visitors have been eating up the opportunity to enjoy their Café favorites at both locations.

Wake up to the smell of comfort
Just as your mama would never send you off without breakfast, Plantation Café makes your morning with tastes and aromas powerful enough to whisk you away to another place and time or make you wish you never had to leave the Lowcountry. If Ellie’s Southern Breakfast (complete with fried green tomatoes atop a heaping bowl of grits) doesn’t have you whistlin’ Dixie, check out the signature Crab Cakes Benedict for a Lowcountry taste not to be forgotten.

If you haven’t acquired a taste for Southern cooking, Plantation Café can do it your way, too. French toast? Italian omelet? Lox platter? Green chili cheese puff? Forgo the grits in favor of home fries; trade in the buttermilk biscuits for cinnamon raisin toast or a bagel; and order up a customized omelet, limited only by your imagination. No matter what part of the country or world you are from, you’ll feel right at home at Plantation Café.

Beyond breakfast
If breakfast sounds too good to be true, wait until you hear what’s in store for lunch. Specializing in home-style cooking and Southern hospitality, Plantation Café welcomes you back for the best mid-day meal this side of the Mason-Dixon Line. You’ll want to start with a bowl of creamy she-crab soup—an island favorite with just the right touch of “bam.” As you move on to the rest of the menu, you are in for a difficult decision. You can choose from a variety of entrée-size salads as well as a broad selection of creative sandwiches and hot-off-the-grill favorites.

But if you’re looking for love, find it on the country blue plates.* Choose fork-tender roast beef, homemade meatloaf, a grilled pork chop, country fried steak, chicken breast or fried fish. Add your three favorite sides (mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, green beans, squash and onions, fried okra, corn on the cob sliced tomatoes…) and you’re halfway to Grandma’s kitchen before you can butter your biscuit.

Whatever time of day you visit Plantation Café, you are sure to get the kind of food and service that hugs you from the inside out. Discover a new source of comfort. It’s something to write home about.

Plantation Café serves breakfast in both locations, Monday-Saturday, 6:30-11:30 a.m. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., with a special brunch menu available on Sunday from 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Ask for your “repeater eater” card and return often for special discounts. For more information or directions, call the south end at 785-9020 or the north end at 342-4472. Take out available.

*Blue plates are available Monday-Friday, 11:30 am.-closing, but are not served on weekends.

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