For weeks now, Verona has been wondering about the new food spot going in on Grove Avenue next to Tortilla Sunrise in the old Frank Anthony’s location. What would the food be? What hours would it be open? And what was up with that name, Hobcaw Cafe, which definitely didn’t sound Jersey?
Wonder no longer. Hobcaw Cafe, named for a South Carolina nature preserve, opened for business this morning at 6 a.m. It will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday at the cozy tables inside the store, which is painted a soothing seaside blue. You can also take out, like one of the “Family Food” specials, which offer dinner for four for $30 or less. Or book Hobcaw for catering at the venue of your choice.
Just what will you be eating? There’s a nod to the cuisine of the American south, with a Carolina pulled pork sandwich at lunch and cheese grits for breakfast. But unlike what you’d find down south, these cheese grits are served with a “bacon” made from shitake mushrooms. And if Hobcaw sold that by the pound, I’d have my Verona Pool snack for the summer.
The twist should tip you off to the heart of Hobcaw Cafe: fresh, made-from-scratch food made from real ingredients. Chefs Nancy McArthur and Clare Green Wilson are graduates of the Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan, which believes that good food can promote good health. So you’ll find vegetarian and vegan options on Hobcaw’s menus, as well as choices for those with food allergies. “Our accountant lives in town,” says McArthur, “and his son has many allergies. We cook with that in mind.” McArthur and Wilson make the stock for their soups from scratch to keep them low in sodium, and don’t thicken the soups with flour, a plus for people with gluten allergies. “And we price our food at a level to compete with less-healthy alternatives,” McArthur adds. Hobcaw’s individual lunch and dinner items will cost you $6.95 or less.
Hobcaw intends to celebrate seasonal vegetables and McArthur comes well-equipped, having staged Iron Chef-style contests at home. “I beat you so bad at the butternut squash battle,” quips son James McArthur, Hobcaw’s sales manager. Its side dishes could be an option for families who keep kosher at home.
Just don’t expect the preachiness that comes with so many whole foods restaurants. Hobcaw wants you to enjoy eating, all the way to dessert. So it makes Whoopie Pies in chocolate fudge, pistachio and Red Velvet varieties, and marshmallows in flavors like pomegranate, lemon, basil and peppermint ($5 a dozen). “You can toast them,” notes Nancy McArthur. “They do everything a proper marshmallow should do.”
So how did all of this wind up in Verona, you ask? McArthur’s husband is the minister of the Roseland Presbyterian Church and his congregation collaborates with Verona’s First Presbyterian Church to feed a soup kitchen in Newark. When she needed a new location for Hobcaw’s catering business a First Presbyterian parishioner mentioned that the old Frank Anthony’s spot was available. The McArthurs–another son, Chip, is the business manager–are striving to be part of the Verona community: They’ve taken items off their menus that are already being served elsewhere in town, and have already joined the Verona Chamber of Commerce.
And one other thing: If you hear music playing in Hobcaw, it will likely be the work of a Verona musician. James McArthur thinks that’s a much better idea than Muzak.