Quick Bites N&O Article
One of most popular sandwiches at Poppyseed Market is the grilled pimento cheese. Owner/chef Julia McGovern makes the pimento cheese from a generations-old family recipe that includes aged white cheddar, pimentos and – this next part will come as a shock to many Southerners who grew up watching their mamas make it – not a bit of mayonnaise. It’s still somehow spreadable and so rich that takeout tubs of the stuff have been known to be given as hostess gifts. Melted between two slices of grilled bread, it’s gooey, cheesy bliss.
It’s also typical of what makes Poppyseed Market special. McGovern takes pride in making everything from scratch, from the house-roasted chicken in the chicken salad to the potato chips that come with sandwiches. Family recipes are woven throughout her culinary repertoire, but “tradition-bound” is the last thing that comes to mind when you’re perusing the offering at Poppyseed Market. Among the sandwich options, for instance, you’ll find two versions of a specialty seldom seen hereabouts, called the spiedie: the traditional version that her husband fondly recalls from his childhood in Binghamton, N.Y. (bite-size pieces of marinated grilled chicken on soft Italian white bread) and a variation dressed up for Julia McGovern’s own Carolina-bred taste with lettuce, tomato and Havarti.
In the display case, among the entrees you can enjoy in the restaurant or take home, you’ll find a traditional meat lasagna alongside a distinctive butternut squash lasagna made from a recipe McGovern got from her mother. The mac and cheese is made from a recipe handed down from her grandmother. Her brother-in-law, who grew up tossing pizzas in New York, contributes a selection of gourmet-topping pizzas now that the restaurant has expanded its hours to include dinner (Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. – Friday & Saturday, 11am-10pm). You might say the oatmeal cranberry cookies, made from a recipe discovered “one time when we ran out of raisins,” she got from Aunt Serendipity.
“It isn’t fast food,” McGovern says, though the service is commendably efficient and friendly even at lunchtime, when the place can get really busy. Combined with Poppyseed Market’s cheery setting and eclectic culinary pedigree, it all blends together smoothly somehow in a way that puts a satisfied smile on your face. Just like that pimento cheese, come to think of it.