Three Little Birds Café

American/Eclectic — Casual

65 Windermere Blvd.

West Ashley

(843) 225-3065

Breakfast, lunch, Sunday brunch

closed Mon.

Tell someone that you are planning to stop by a local restaurant for a tofu and veggie scramble, soy yogurt cup topped with fresh fruit, and a broccoli, tempeh, and swiss melt and they may not imagine any place quite like the Three Little Birds, tucked inconspicuously in the far recesses of the South Windermere shopping center, near the rear loading zones of the more marketed places that front Folly Road. Restaurants serving such fare seem strangely divided between the corporate shtick of super-upscale, organic shopping outlets with over-priced salad bars, and rough and tumble sandwich shops with too many alfalfa sprouts, white guys with dreadlocks, and decidedly dirty kitchen floors.

Three Little Birds is different. If you think that strange health foods made with modified soy proteins mean weird-tasting food — and so often they do — then you owe yourself a trip here. You can make fun of tree-huggers and granola all you want, but even those in a full-blown Limbaugh stupor won’t lament the granola maple pancakes ($6.95). Nor will the most righteous fat cat loathe the Lowcountry shrimp and grits ($9.95), whose local shrimp and piles of stone-ground grits will keep the belly full and the type 2 diabetes coming on strong — and the huge parking lot that surrounds the space leaves plenty of room for oversized gas-guzzling SUV’s. Three Little Birds is a place for everyone.

Outside of the obvious nod to the Jamaican vibrations of Bob Marley, it seems strangely soccer mom-ish — spotlessly clean, family friendly, and genuinely concerned with serving wholesome and delicious meals. Warm wooden tables and chairs bathed in the bright light of the full glass façade, children’s artwork brightening the walls behind the small counter, and a cheerful waitstaff all make Three Little Birds one of the best little brunch spots west of the Ashley — organic, local, and otherwise.

There’s nothing really fancy about the place. You can get a grouper BLT for $9.95 or a T(ofu)LT for $6.95. They have homemade veggie burgers ($6.95) and Angus burgers ($8.95). A sizeable kids’ menu offers “fun-shaped” pancakes with caramelized bananas, a “bird’s nest” (fried eggs wrapped in hash browns), pita pizzas, and grilled chicken — all of which can be had for less than five bucks. The Margherita Mozzarella Melt on a bun ($6.95) features a rich tomato sauce, melted cheese, and sprigs of basil on a delicious slab of crispy grilled bread slathered with olive oil, unless they happen to be out of basil, in which case they will offer you a few sprinkles of rosemary instead, which might be even better than the standard formula. It’s great food at a good price.

They have only one lunch entrée at present — an acceptable smoked chicken ravioli that, while sporting a somewhat dry filling, delivers great flavor and a wonderfully prepared “spinach goat cheese tomato sauce” ($8.95) — and have plans to introduce dinner in the near future. They also offer some creative salads, such as a grilled fruit salad with champagne vinegar for $6.95 and a pile of greens, strawberries, pecans, and blue cheese, topped with strawberry-citrus vinaigrette ($7.95). This should please anyone living within shouting distance of Three Little Birds.

It’s not every day that you find a great new place that serves unpretentious food for a good price. It’s even rarer to find that combination in such a convenient location. Such values usually live off the beaten path, like Little Tokyo, the best little Japanese place in the metro area, way up on the outskirts of Summerville, or the wonderfully French Mia’s Café, halfway to Ravenel down Highway 17 South, whose Sunday brunch may be the best deal in town. Three Little Birds is this kind of place, a hidden gem that will ply the risky path of most other small proprietors, caught between the unpredictable sales of a small marketing budget and the high cost of quality food, and they’ll do it right in the heart of West Ashley. You usually hear about these places by word-of-mouth. And once they attract a loyal, local following, we can expect good food for years to come.