Good eats: You won’t leave hungry
Café is heavy on portions and a quirky ’70s vibe,
thanks to a tough gal from Montana
BY JANET GIBSON | PHOTOGRAPHY BY CINDY BURNHAM
You’ve got to love a place that puts a dish on the menu called “The Thing.”
And the customers eat it up. Sometimes they ask for biscuits to be added to the bottom of the concoction, and folks who crave spicy will request lots of jalapeños on top.
The menu says, “Only your server knows what the thing is.” But if you ask Mary Saucier, owner of MaryBill’s Café, she’ll give it to you straight.
“It’s a layer of hash browns, then a layer of sausage gravy, another layer of hash browns and sausage gravy, and then top it with an egg and your choice of ham, sausage or bacon,” says the petite, platinum blonde dynamo. She adds that, if you’re military, you’ve heard about a version of the sausage gravy dish called SOS. (We cannot print what the acronym stands for here, but ask an Army buddy.)
Mary Saucier, a gal of modest means from Montana who began working at age 10 in the restaurant where her mom waitressed, is nothing if not saucy. If her establishment was a saloon, she would be Miss Kitty. If you are grumpy, she will probably tell you so. And then she’ll serve up a slice of her homemade honey bun cake to sweeten your demeanor and make you swoon. Nobody stays mad at MaryBill’s Café.
For going on 15 years, she has been running one of the most popular breakfast and lunch places in town, just off Bragg Boulevard in Eutaw Village North. Before opening MaryBill’s (Bill is a former partner), she ran Mary Do’s on Skibo Road. But her influence on the local food scene dates much further back. She arrived here in 1978 to manage Tuesday’s, a restaurant in Cross Creek Mall that was famous for its mile-long salad bar with the big cheese wheel and crunchy bread.
Tuesday’s also was known for its hot crab dip, the same recipe that Mary proudly serves at her namesake café. Some customers even order it for breakfast, sopping up every last drop with garlic bread.
But mostly, breakfast-goers come for the three-egg omelets that are as large as platters with names such as Momma’s Favorite, The Western Boy, and This Little Piggy
Complete with soul-warming grits, crispy bacon or sliced tomatoes. Or stacks of pancakes that bring out the giggles in kids of all ages. Belgian waffles, too. And, of course, “The Thing.”
Sandwiches dominate the lunch menu, including the excellent Turkey Melt and Reuben. Burgers are another favorite, including Bubba’s Monster Burger, a 10-ounce beef patty piled high with grilled onions, peppers, American and pepper Jack cheeses, served with lettuce, tomato and mayo on sourdough bread.
Daily specials with two sides are $8.50 and include your choice of coffee or tea. The rib-sticking specials are hamburger steak on Tuesday, pork chops on Wednesday, meatloaf for Thursday, and Friday is all about salmon patties. Some of the sides are fried cabbage, coleslaw, fried okra and pasta salad – in other words, the staples you’d see on many a Southern menu.
Four of Mary’s staff have been with her a combined 100-plus years.
Daily specials include rib-sticking foods such as hamburger steak on Tuesday, pork chops on Wednesday, meatloaf on Thursday, and salmon patties on Friday. Sides include fried cabbage, coleslaw, fried okra and pasta salad, the staples you’d see on many a Southern menu.
Lighter appetites might choose Dr. Stout’s Salad, fresh greens spiked with grilled lemon chicken and feta cheese and named in honor of the late building owner and developer.
Almost everything on the menu is between $3 to $9.
It’s no wonder that a loyal following eats here just about daily between Tuesday through Saturday – and dozens make MaryBill’s a weekly date.
The atmosphere is decidedly ’70s retro with homey touches such as family photos on the walls. Mary keeps a Christmas tree up all year long and changes it according to season or holiday. Large ornamental Christmas balls hang from the ceiling. “I have to!” she says about the quirky décor. “I have no storage.”
She’ll tell you that restaurant work is all she knows. And she loves it, so there.
“This is the most rewarding retail business to be in,” she says. “And if you’re going to do it, do it right. Give it all you’ve got.”
MaryBill’s Café, at 801 Elm St., is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Most menu items are under $9. Nonalcoholic beverages include sodas, juices and milk. The homemade desserts are rave-worthy, notably Mary’s honey bun cake and the German chocolate dump cake. Catering is available. Call 910-221-1170.