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  • Tara Crutchfield

SoCe Market

Jacki Walston, of Adler’s Burgers fame, opened downtown Winter Haven’s only bodega earlier this year. The “Market South of Central” offers healthy and decadent options, “cuisine across cultures,” grab-and-go bites, beer, wine, and more. The chill, modern space, a former garage on Avenue C S.W., opened on January 31. 



Walston hails from a hospitality background. She studied culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu and bartended for Linksters and The Wheelhouse. Walston, husband Wade, and partner Jeremiah Waters opened the Adler’s Burgers food truck in 2016. The beloved burger chain now has brick-and-mortar restaurants in Davenport and Winter Haven. Walston is the creative genius behind Adler’s pun-laden, mouth-watering weekly specials. 


That combo of food, spirits, and hospitality is what Walston hopes to create across all of her concepts. She looks to foster “a nice environment for people to come and hang out, drink, and be merry.” Drinking or not, grab-and-go or sit and relax, “We wanted a place that everybody felt comfortable to come to,” Walston said. 


As an owner of Adler’s, Walston saw the need for folks who work downtown to be able to grab lunch and get back to work quickly as well as a place where friends could share pita and hummus over a glass of wine – somewhere they could “take as much time or as little time as you want,” she said.  


When the bodega isn’t busy busting out killer Cubans and Chimi Cherry Coke-o Pops, they’re in the back getting creative. They even have a shelf full of ingredients Walston calls their “Chopped” shelf. “We want to forever be changing,” Walston said. She always tells her team, “We can do whatever we want – whatever is fun and exciting or an ingredient that excites us.”


The menu the team has crafted and continually revamps has lighter and indulgent options and tasty signatures like the St. Larry made with roasted turkey, white American cheese, bacon, Thousand Island dressing, hoagie peppers, lettuce, tomato, and onion served baked or cold. The St. Larry is an ode to Walston’s Saint Lawrence, NY roots. “That’s how I always ordered my own sub,” she said. 


The Bump & Grind, a deli delight – made with ham, salami, pepperoni, provolone, Swiss cheese, baked and topped with a NYC deli-style salad, banana peppers, tomato, and onion – was inspired by the famous TikTok grinder. “I felt like I was being bombarded with how delicious that looked,” Walston said. Putting it on the menu was team member Jack’s idea, along with other creations like the Bacon Me Jam with Jack’s own bacon onion jam and spicy pepper goat cheese on toasted brioche bread. “They have been doing a lot with pushing the envelope of rad and fun and exciting, and it makes me feel a little more confident being weird with food,” Walston said. 


The SoCe owner bragged on her other team members, too, like Jess from Maui (who introduced Jacki to her husband, Wade). Jess has worked alongside Wolfgang Puck’s sous chef, and Walston noted, “She has an amazing palate.” Another team member, A.J., came to the bodega after working at Adler’s for several years. He even came up with some of their crave-worthy burger creations, so she was thrilled to bring him on at SoCe. 


SoCe’s grab-and-go area offers options like adult ‘lunchables,’ hummus and pita, dips, pasta salad, chicken salad, and more. This is where the “cuisine across cultures” comes in with varying flavors from Mediterranean and Indian to Asian and Hawaiian. “Mainly, we want to see what the community wants,” Walston said. 


In addition to tasty treats and grab-and-go goodness, the bodega offers cold brew coffee, wine, mix-and-match beer six-packs for $15, and beer on tap from local breweries Grove Roots and the Florida Brewery. “We’ll have more of the bodega items coming soon,” Walston said. 


The bodega recently introduced its Friday and Saturday late-night hours. “In upstate New York, there are lots of college towns, and there was always that one late-night spot that everyone congregated to for munchies, and I would like to be that here,” said Walston. “I feel like every little city needs that. I would like to be one of the first within walking distance of downtown.” 


Sunday brunch is another recent addition to SoCe’s repertoire. The plan is to have sangria and brunch cocktails along with a changing menu of breakfast sandwiches, deviled eggs, and more.


“We just need people to find us,” Walston said. “We’re kind of in an undiscovered nook of the town.” This section of town won’t be undiscovered for long though. Six/Ten LLC began construction on their new food and beverage concept, Bowen Yard, over the summer. The project will feature multiple buildings with six on-site dining options and a large recreational yard for outdoor seating. “I am over the moon,” said the SoCe owner. “It’s the start of something new, and to work alongside all these amazing chefs and entrepreneurs is very exciting and humbling.” 

 

Photography by Amy Sexson and Nate Schaller


SoCe Market

380 Ave C SW, Winter Haven

Facebook @SoCeMarket

Instagram @socemarket 

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