Undercover Foodie serves up the Local Dish: Maggie's Pub & Eatery
By Author Unknown | I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: Food is good. But it’s more than a simple statement. Food is good for you; good for business, good for socializing, good for bonding, good for uplifting your mood, and simply good for the soul. Food is one of the most important things we will experience in life. Try any and all food at least once, no matter how ‘out-there’ it sounds or how questionable in edibility it appears. True, not all food experiences in life will be moving, but when you come face-to-plate with a dish that stimulates all of your senses; when the tastes, sensations, and flavors render you speechless (probably due to all the food in your mouth), it is these salivating moments that truly leave an impact on your life.
Perhaps even more importantly, food should always, always, be made with love. If you care about the food you are creating, the experience you are creating, and the customer you are serving… you will be successful. When food is made with love and prepared by those who care, not only about the customer but care and respect the ingredients at their hands, then this love can be felt with every bite taken.
And, this is the very same love and care that I can feel in every course I am served at Maggie’s Pub and Eatery in Habersham Marketplace.
From the moment you take a gander at the Maggie’s menu, you are able to see through the diversity that this is much more than standard ‘Pub-food’. From tapas Lamb Chops to Watermelon Salad, from Shrimp Etouffee to Roasted Organic Chicken… you know you are going to be in for a treat and that you’re about to see the best from a chef who obviously loves what he does.
I place my order and before I ponder what sort of flavor profiles lay before me this evening, an Amuse Bouche is placed at my hands; a small bite of roasted corn chowder and chive. It may be small in composition, but it’s huge in flavor; creamy smoky elements embrace the sweet, golden corn and leave a fresh finish on the tongue from the chive. Besides being absolutely yummy, it is always fun to start off a meal with an Amuse. It’s a great way to start the evening and it sets the stage for what is to come, all the while awakening the senses.
Next to arrive is my appetizer, Heirloom Local Tomato and Crab with a chilled ginger saffron hollandaise and fresh avocado. I will state upfront that avocado is this foodie’s weakness, guaranteed. For me, Avocado is right up there with a good bowl of pasta or a superb sushi roll (which is saying a lot). So I had to take the bait and order this dish, and upon taking my first bite, and I am so very, very glad I did. Golden tomatoes are salted well by the lush lump crabmeat. Both elements eaten together portray a pure, uninhibited flavor, which is contrasted perfectly with the creamy avocado, but the avocado serves to complement not to overpower, which leads to the success of this dish.
I’m not one to say there can ever be too much avocado, but in the case of this dish, I feel that if the avocado had more of a presence, it would completely overpower the dish and ruin the pure flavors.
The chef shows restraint, something that signifies talent and knowledge. The hollandaise sauce serves to throw in counterpoint of flavors and slight spice-notes from the ginger and saffron without overpowering the main elements, offering a complexity of flavors that keep coming in and out of play upon the tongue. Not afraid to get my hands dirty, I freely dip my fingers into the sauce multiple times to really gain an understanding of the various flavors. In totality the dish is light, refreshing, waking up your stomach and makes your toes tap with excitement for the next course.
And my excitement skyrockets when my entrée arrives. The Spainard; a medium-rare burger topped with house-made salsa and a poached egg. Complete with onion rings and a spear, the intoxicating scent of char and spice infiltrated my nose and warned my stomach that it’s about to be conquered. Feeling like I need to draw schematics on how to eat the thing, and receiving helpful burger-eating tips from my waitress, I dive in.
The audible “Mmmmmm” emanates from my mouth involuntarily and I’m thankful that no one is sitting nearby, lest I draw strange looks. But then again, they can look all they want because this burger is nothing short of scrumptious. Perfectly juicy and moist with the subtle tastes and slight texture of char, and the surprising-yet-smart pairing of flavors from the slightly spicy salsa and the runny (but not too runny) egg takes my burger-eating experience to a whole new level. There are a lot of flavors comprising this burger, and they all make sense. It is almost as if the chef has taken a filet mingon, ground it up and cooked it to perfection. The flavors make your eyes roll in satisfaction, and render your hand hesitant to put the burger down, not even to take a sip from your beverage. Before this foodie can analyze the different flavors with a discerning eye to figure out what exactly is making the flavors of this burger so harmonious, my plate is clean and my stomach is nearly-full. Fair warning future-burgers; this one will be difficult to top.
Letting my main course settle and sipping on a glass of Estrella, a pilsner from Barcelona which, according to the staff, in all of South Carolina is only served at Maggie’s (Hey, other bars, BE jealous!), I happen to see the Chef/owner pop out of the kitchen and greet a few customers. Because curiosity always gets the better of me, I happen to eavesdrop and hear the chef talking about the burgers, currently a Wednesday night special at Maggie’s. Suddenly, some light is shed onto why I loved my burger so much; the featured beef is both grass fed and local. Now, I am no fool, and I understand that grass fed beef is both expensive and difficult to sustain a business on. And, quite frankly, any type of meat has the potential to be good as long as the cut is good, trimmed appropriately, seasoned respectively, and cooked properly. But when it’s a good breed and there’s a good fat-to-meat ratio, grass-fed meats have an intoxicating flavor that is drool-worthy, deeply rich, and will entice you to throw in a grass-fed option into your weekly meal-routine.
Those flavors will definitely take a while to dissipate from my memory.
And to top the evening off, I order a house-made Vanilla Caramel Swirl Cake.
Desserts are rarity for me since my sweet tooth isn’t as prevalent as my desire for all things savory. They can be average when served in a restaurant setting, mostly because the majority of restaurants order desserts from companies instead of making them fresh in-house. But the simple fact that this dessert was made the previous evening by the sous-chef, and that vanilla can be subtle in its sweetness, I just have to take advantage.
What meets my mouth in his case is nothing short of decadent. A heavenly moist vanilla cake dotted with token swirls of chocolate, and edged with a hearty caramel sauce and topped with shaved coconut. Under other circumstances I would detest the coconut, but I cannot knock a dish for the simple fact that I don’t particularly have a general affinity for an ingredient.
If it works with the rest of the dish, then it wins.
And in this case, the coconut offers a contrasting texture and delightfully interplays with the caramel and offers a nice, complimenting flavor. Overall, the cake is a perfect postlude to the symphony of food I was served this evening.
So much more than a typical Pub & Eatery, Maggie’s presents an elevated neighborhood hotspot offering a flair of class and elegance while maintaining a steady stream of realism. From its gray and brown color tones with warm lighting to walls contrasting with splashes of color with soulful artwork. From the elegantly cooked and presented food, to supporting locally grown and bred foods. Maggie’s just exudes charm and understated class, much like Beaufort itself, and is a warm and inviting establishment. Surrounded by a charming staff, and the perfect wall adornment of ‘Cheers’ fashioned from scripted iron, you’ll hear a mix of old standards and favorite 50’s music in the background mixing in with the conversations between everyone who, quite literally, knows everyone!
This outsider is quickly made to feel like an old regular, as if my corner seat has been saved for me for ages.