April 2008

What's the Soup Today...at the Market Street Cafe

Author: Miranda Spencer

There must have been something tasty-but-preternatural in the water in the early 1980s. During this era, Whitney Houston and George Michael were at their peaks, the Berlin Wall finally came down, the sitcom Cheers was aired, and Market Street Café of Hilton Head Island opened. Over 20 years later, Whitney Houston, George Michael, the Berlin Wall, and Cheers are no más! But one thing that remains and grows stronger every year is The Market Street Café in Coligny Plaza.

Owned and operated by Joni Gianguzzi and Carolyn Baltz, Market Street Café has been a local favorite since firing up the stove in 1983. “We’ve been open since ’83, but Carolyn and I have owned it since ’99,” said Baltz, while sitting comfortably at one of their collage-covered tables. “The menu has pretty much stayed the same. It’s been so successful we haven’t wanted to change much of anything.”

And there’s no reason to. Locals and tourists alike rave about everything from the staff to the daily homemade soup. “We have a cream soup and a non-cream soup every day,” Baltz explained.

From personal experience, it’s easy to admit that Market Street Café’s soup is phenomenal, and plenty of people agree. “We probably get 15-20 phone calls a day to see what the soup is,” said Baltz. “We even have a list in the kitchen of people we call daily. For the past 25 years, we’ve had New England clam chowder on Fridays, and people will come in specifically for that.”

Everything is homemade at Market Street Café, even the sauces. Out of their full range menu, the potato salad is the only item that’s not made from scratch, but for a good reason: “because it has three different kinds of potatoes and everyone loves it, so we’ve decided to keep it on the menu,” Baltz explained.

The gyros (pronounced “heros”) seem to be the most popular item on the menu. Other popular choices include delectable homemade items such as the spinakopita (also known as the spinach pie), the veggie wrap, the turkey Reuben, the shrimp salad, and the mouth-watering desserts made by Dotty and Carolyn’s dad “Mr. B.”

Drew and Trish Maggard are regulars who have been coming to Market Street Café since they moved into their business upstairs two and a half years ago. “I’ve always found the waitresses to be fresh,” Drew joked. “But really, the best thing about this place is no matter what you want, you get a great whatever-it-is. Just the other day I got a garden salad—it was just a regular garden salad, but it was so good because it was so fresh.”

In such a laid back atmosphere, guests are bound to enjoy the staff just as much as the incredible food. It makes a restaurant feel almost like family when staff members know exactly what the customer wants. “A lot of people don’t have to ask for what they want to drink because the staff already knows,” said Baltz. “And people love that!”

Casey Carrigan, a regular since Market Street Café first opened its doors, said, “This place has been around since dirt. Even in the wintertime it’s good. We’re pretty much treated like kings.”

Comfort is such an important feeling, and the Café doesn’t have to try too hard to create this feeling; the customers do it for them. “At lunch, everyone knows everyone,” said Baltz. “They’ll talk from table to table. When people walk in the door they stop at two or three tables before they get to their own. I love that.”

Reid and Diane Eikner have been coming to Market Street Café for over 20 years and have nothing but good things to say about it. “You’re always greeted warmly and the service is so swift,” said Diane.

Her husband Reid agrees, “Everyone is so happy here. What sets the service apart from everywhere else is that there’s never one person waiting on your table. All of the staff is attentive to you. Even in the summer when the tourists are lined up, they keep the line moving.”

The Eikners especially enjoy the dog-friendly aspect of Market Street Café. “It’s the most dog-friendly place on the island,” said Diane. “Darwin always seems to know when we’re coming here, and they’ll bring him a bowl of water and dog biscuits. He rates it five woofs!”

Carolyn and Joni both believe that customer service is number one. Not only do they have a full staff, but they know they’re a part of it. “Joni and I work,” said Baltz. “We’re here even if we have to cook or hostess. The customers and staff see us washing dishes and even cleaning bathrooms. There’s nothing beneath us.”

The staff has definitely taken note of the owners’ teamwork. Irish, the kitchen manager, has been an employee for seven years, which she remarks with a laugh is “too damn long,” but prefers to mention how great the owners are. “Carolyn and Joni are wonderful. It’s like a big family here.”

“I love it here,” said waitress Julie Cardozo. “I’ve been here for ten years, and Joni and Carolyn have proved to be awesome.”

Jenny Everetts is Market Street’s bartender and has lived in Bluffton since before traffic lights were introduced. “I’ve worked here for 10 years,” Everetts said. “It’s like my home away from home, and I’ve met so many new friends just from being here. It’s such a family-oriented place.”

To keep the locals coming during season, Market Street Café is adopting a call-ahead method of seating. “We’re doing call-aheads for the locals in summer to keep them coming in,” said Baltz. “Just tell us that you’re coming, and we’ll put you at the top of the list.”

Hmm, this sounds almost as tempting as their Hummingbird Cake…

Market Street Café, located in Coligny Plaza, is open seven days a week from 11am – 9pm serving lunch and dinner. For more information, or to call-ahead, please call (843) 686-4976.

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