CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Flexibility might be Richard Arbaugh's middle name.
When he and his wife, Anne, opened South Hills Market and Café three years ago, he served breakfasts and lunches and offered take-out dinner items in the market case. Less than a year later, Arbaugh expanded the hours through dinnertime and added entrees of elegantly composed dishes. In September, the restaurant was granted a liquor license, so he built a small bar with full bar service.
Arbaugh listens to customers' suggestions. He tweaks the menu to keep them happy. Recently, some were looking for healthier options. Others, who said they felt the pinch of tough economic times, couldn't quite handle the prices of the dinner entrees paired with carefully selected accompaniments.
He made more adjustments.
"We offering more items a la carte," he said. "They can mix and match. A lot of people just want a piece of fish or a filet and a salad. They don't want a full meal."
The composed, or full course, dishes featured exotic ingredients like miniature shiitake mushrooms and blue fin tuna that drove up their prices. Arbaugh still offers composed dishes such as a beef short ribs with white cheddar grits and fennel/green apple slaw for $25, but Carolina trout with butter and lemon is $12 and build-your-own pasta dishes start at $9.
"Even in this rough economy, we've been pretty lucky," he said. "We've seen some tough times, but the community has been really supportive."
The restaurant usually bustles at breakfast and lunchtime when patrons may order half versions of sandwiches and wraps, either half or full-sized, salads and soup. They won't get any French fries, however. South Hills Market and Café has no deep fryer. Chips or a changing selection of side salads come with the sandwiches. Pastina, three-bean, Mediterranean pasta and beet salads were on display last week.
A house omelet stuffed with smoked salmon, Boursin cheese, tomatoes and chives stays on the breakfast and lunch menu, as does stuffed French toast made from Charleston Bread's brioche.
Arbaugh adjusts the menu for the season, but said he'll make off-the-menu items at a customer's request if he has the ingredients. He and his sous chef Abigail Bingaman and night lead chef Ben Jordan prepare vegetarian, vegan and gluten free items to order.
The café's signature dessert has to be the oversized cookies in the dessert case. Roughly the equivalent of three normal cookies, the giant chocolate chip, sugar, ginger, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and other cookies sell in big numbers. Children and adults' eyes light up the first time they see them.