All of the ingredients for a successful restaurant and a robust following from locals and returning tourists are standard fare at The Cottage Café, Bakery and Tea Room, 38 Calhoun St. in the heart of Old Town Bluffton.
Executive chef Leslie Rohland has owned the restaurant for the past nine years. She said consistency is the steadying force for the café's stellar reputation.
But don't overlook the artful presentation of food on each plate; the quality and flavor in each bite of a generous portion; fresh local produce; exceptional service; a warm, cozy Lowcountry ambiance indoors or out; baked goodies made from scratch daily; coffee roasted locally; and an assortment of teas for an afternoon delight.
"We focus on Lowcountry cuisine with a real spirited focus on Creole, Cajun and traditional South Carolinian cuisine," said Rohland, who also owns The Juice Hive in Bluffton. "Then we like to spin it a little bit. It's Southern based, for sure."
Think pimento shrimp and grits, Cajun shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, jambalaya, gumbo and blackened fresh local fish.
Rohland, an Army brat who landed in the Lowcountry in 1999 to help open the Jazz Corner on the island and be its general manager, has always tinkered with her menu. Just a few weeks ago, she introduced seven "Early Bird" breakfast offerings for $7.95 including coffee, a treat for locals who are on the move from 8 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday.
Among the standouts on the regular breakfast menu are two award-winning dishes: the ABC Omelet (artichoke, blue crab, brie, crème fraiche) and Kimchi N' Eggs (scrambled with avocado and spinach in a puff pastry, crème fraiche and scallion). Prices range from $12.95 to $16.95.
Thirteen mouth-watering salads - shrimp and crab, blackened red fish and seared chicken breast - anchor the lunchtime options, which also include jambalaya, pot pie, paninis, burgers and wraps. Prices range from $12.95 to $22.95.
In the mood for Blue Crab, Corn & Bacon Pot Pie or Dijon Crusted Wild Salmon? Then be seated from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday or Saturday night for the $28.95 Early Dining three-course special.
Six appetizers and four salads join the By Land and By Sea offerings for weekend dinner from $24 to $31.
The Cottage also hosts Sunday brunch from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and afternoon tea (by reservation only). Stop by the bakery anytime for pies, cakes, tarts, scones, cookies, bread and coffee. There also is a full bar and a dog menu.
Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.