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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Aloha, Island Cafe

On a recent stroll around the Farmers Market, I glanced over at what used to be one of my favorite stops, Uncommon Grounds.

Wait! Can this be true? Island Café now open!

When did this happen? What do they serve? More importantly can they measure up to the delectable goodies my taste buds had become accustomed too?

The door to my former stomping grounds was open and wafting out was the distinct aroma of coffee. In the background a gentle whirring sound beckoned, a blender in action preparing someone’s creamy smoothie.

The sign was lit and said open. So I ventured in. I walked up to the register area and grabbed a menu.

“Coffee & Friends make the Perfect Blend,” was their motto written on the menu.

Yes!

It felt like home, familiar and comfortable. I ordered the Hawaiian sliders, which is barbecue pulled pork served on four slider buns with a pickle wedge, and lightly salt and peppered. The combo comes with a drink and a side of chips. I walked around the diner as I waited for my lunch.

Chalkboards hang from the wall by the entrance. Brightly colored chalk list the menu items and daily specials. All their coffee comes from Kona Coffee in Hawaii. They have breakfast combos, pastries and a variety of coffee blends and an expresso bar.

People trickled in. A host of familiar faces filter in and out. All appear pleased to see the building house a new food establishment. I know I am. Orders start coming in. Soon the humming of the blender fills the room.

“The smoothies are completely natural and sugar free,” owner and blender master Mary Dorleus said.

Dorleus moved to Hinesville in 2003 from Oahu and for the past 13 years was a general manager at a hotel. She said she worked long hours, but felt disconnected from residents of her hometown.

“In the hotel industry we cater to the people that are from all over the place that came into town,” she said. “But now, what I’m able to do here is actually cater to the community. I want to get to know my customers. ...these are the citizens of this community and we hope to cater to them and in return they return as consistent customers.”

Behind the counter, Dorleus’ employees were prepping paninis while she whipped up tropical smoothies.

What flavors do you have?” I asked.

“Strawberry, mango, pina colada, black raspberry and Hawaiian blend,” was the quick reply.

“What’s a Hawaiian blend?”

“Two flavors mixed together.”

“Awesome,” I thought to myself.

I grab my chips and water and sit. Soon Ms. Betsy (no last name please), the general manager, brings my plate.

Yes!

The sliders were neatly packed with pulled pork. The meat was tender and the sauce had a distinct balance between salty and sweet.

“How is it?” Betsy asked.

“Freaking awesome,” I said and looked at the man seated next to me. “How’s yours?”

“Delicious,” he said after he chewed down a big bite from his club sandwich.

It did look delicious and is likely my next lunch order when I return.

I took another look at the menu.

Cuban bread!

Most of the paninis are served on either white or flat bread. But they have a roast beef panini and chicken panini, which may be served with Cuban bread. The chicken panini is grilled chicken, sliced mozzarella, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, salt and paper on Cuban bread.

Why didn’t I see that sooner?

Must try that on my third or fourth visit.

They also have salads.

“I like to offer healthy options,” Dorleus said. The eat-in diner is an add-on to her existing mobile smoothie truck called Maui Wowi which focuses on their Hawaiian coffee drinks and smoothies.

Before heading out, I spoke with Betsy and learned she is from Puerto Rico and was the inspiration for adding Cuban bread to some of the sandwiches.

“My goal is to bring an authentic Cuban sandwich here too,” she said.

OMG…I’ll be a customer for life!

Honestly it was going to be hard to live up to the expectations of Uncommon Grounds. But Island Café did just that and a tad more.

Mahalo and aloha.

Island Café is at 110 S. Commerce St. It is open from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays from 7 until 5. They are closed Sundays. Visit their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/islandcafedowntownhinesville/?ref=br_rs.

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