At the main entrance to the North Main Community, nestled behind popular Stone Avenue businesses lies a sweet little gem disguised as an average convenience store. Do not be fooled by this. When you walk in, you will be pleasantly surprised with the unbelievable variety of craft and domestic beer, extensive wine selection and the best yet, Maria’s international cooking. Maria’s little bodega in the back nourishes everyone with a big smile, family style seating, and flavors you can’t find anywhere else in Greenville.
The History of the Drop-In Store…
In 1983, the Drop-In Store originally opened with Maria’s husband, Roland Gomes and his dad as partners. In 1985, Maria comes into the scene as the young, beautiful Goan wife. Background to this love story: When Maria was 16 she met Roland in their hometown of Goa, India. They immediately fell in love and married 3 days after her 18th birthday. Six months later she joined him here in Greenville. Fast-forward to 3 fantastic kids that are all involved in the family business: Carmen 25, Anthony 26, and Judith 28 all born and raised in Greenville, SC.
“I love experimenting. I love cooking.” With many tasting spoons in the kitchen, Maria experiments constantly as she learns more about the American palate. Yep, she can cook anything. You can stop by any day and order authentic dishes ranging from Indian samosas to hotdogs topped with Maria’s delicious homemade chili.
But Maria didn't cook at first. After leasing out space to Valerie Rebellato, native Brazilian who was the former owner of Café Paulista Grille, Maria started pursuing her own cooking dreams. She took over the space under Val's tutledge keeping the Latin American favorites such as the Cuban Sandwich, feijoada black bean stew, tamales and chicken enchiladas while adding her own Goan twist. As Maria explains, “I love Goan food. It’s mainly curries and an abundance of coastal seafood. It’s a fusion of Portuguese and Indian cooking.”
Since 1510, Goa was a Portuguese colony that has withstood many influences through food, language and religion. In 1961, India annexed the province and Goa today is India’s 25th state. It's an integral part of western India with coastlines stretching along the Arabian Sea.
How do you pick your specials?
Maria explains her process. “I never know what I’m going to make, especially for the daily specials. I usually go in the mornings to the meat market. But it’s whatever I find that day, that’s what I make as a special. I don’t go by recipes, so I never know in advance.”
Maria uses only the finest ingredients with help from the community. For instance: Her produce is sourced locally from “Pops” (age 93) an urban farmer. The fresh-caught shrimp comes her Maria’s nephew in Charleston. The organic and/or cage free chicken is locally sourced from Vaughn’s Packing Company.
Top: Goan shrimp chili fry, Brazilian feijoada black bean stew and spicy shrimp tacos. Served with a Brazilian soda called Guarana, which has an apple-berry flavor. Yummmm.
Honestly, it’s hard to pick a favorite with all of her incredible daily specials. You never know what's going to come out of the kitchen. Case in point: I just inhaled an incredible, homemade veggie burger with all organic fresh ingredients and crispy fries.
The middle child, Anthony (26) serves as the wine and beer consultant, sharing his passion for beer with “Anthony’s Pick” labels on some of the finest selections. He’s got an incredible palate that must have come from his mother’s foodie influence.
A tip from the regulars: Grab yourself a 6 pack of your favorite craft, domestic or imported beer. Take a seat, order some delicious Maria food (no, you can’t go wrong here, it’s all good) and make a few new friends. Stay a while. It’ll be the greatest one, two or three hours of your day.
Watch out for Mike....
who jokingly warns us not to come on Tuesdays or Fridays, the which are coincidentally the days he visits from Landrum, SC. He’s been a regular for many years. Maria chooses his meals and also sends something home for his wife.
Roland. “He’s the brains of the operation. He works seven days a week and has never taken a day off,” Maria lovingly acknowledges. Maybe you can get him to smile. You’re welcome to try.
Greenville is magical place. It has hosted international people and businesses since the turn of the century and its southern charm has accepted and encouraged diversity. This is especially true when it comes to food options. The list of family-run, international restaurants are constantly growing. You can check out Off the Grid Greenville (OTGG) prior features on SWAD, Mekong, and The Pita House to get an idea of how lucky we are to call Greenville home.
Be on the lookout for Maria’s food truck, coming soon to a curbside near you...