Drop-In And Enjoy: Fresh Food From the Heart of Maria's Kitchen
“You want to go to a restaurant, go to a restaurant. You want a home cooked meal, you come here.”
Here, of course, being the Drop-In Store on North Main Street. The place where Maria Gomes is using a small space to create big flavors that keep customers coming back to the tiny, corner kitchen that’s all her own.
Gomes and her husband, Roland, have run the Drop-In Store on the residential end of North Main Street in Greenville for over 31 years, though it’s only been a little over a year that Maria has manned the kitchen, putting her heart and soul into the food she makes.
“It’s about authenticity,” Maria says. “Everything is made from the heart, that day. I serve (customers) like I’m serving my family.”
Gomes credits part of that authenticity to Valerie Rebellato, former chef and owner of the now-shuttered Café Paulista Grille. The São Paolo native came to the Drop-In owners in 2011 with the idea to turn the two-decades dormant kitchen into a Brazilian-inspired bodega, serving up genuine Portuguese dishes with fresh and local ingredients.
After a year of renovations and another year-and-a-half of Valerie holding the reins, Maria took over in January of 2014. She has kept the Portuguese staples learned from Valerie on the menu, as well as her own ever-changing arsenal of Goan (Maria and her husband both hail from Goa) and Indian dishes. Customers can find pork curry alongside fresh tuna and seaweed salad and samosas with coconut and cilantro chutney.
The constantly-evolving menu can be credited to daily trips to the market, an inexhaustible love for food, and the customers themselves. Yes, the customers. Maria has a loyal following bring her ripe produce from their farms or a fresh catch from their latest deep sea fishing expedition. They even skin and filet the catch for her on site, too.
Maria is a gracious host (and indeed, she is a host), tending to customers and neighbors like they’re her own flesh and blood, bestowing hugs and asking about work or school. Gratitude is evident in everything she does, as a way of paying it forward.
“I can’t thank Valerie enough,” Maria says. “Because of her, I’m getting to live my dream every day.”
And today that dream involves a pork roast. She made a special plate for a fellow Goan man who is new to the area and gravitated toward the familiarity of her kitchen. They exchanged stories and phone numbers; he took the meal home to his family.
There’s a light and a vibration on one of the booths. “That’s him now,” she says and answers her ringing phone.
After a brief conversation full of laughter and smiles, she hangs up. He was calling to thank her. His family thanked her. The meal tasted like home. It was her pleasure, really.
709 North Main Street