By Becky Billingsley
Tom and Margaret Sollars moved to the Grand Strand four years ago from California, because they were looking for a slower lifestyle.
“We have an 8-year-old boy and two boys in college,” Tom said. “We didn’t want to raise the younger boy in that [fast-paced] atmosphere in California. We were working like crazy, we both worked full-time jobs. We wanted to move somewhere less expensive, and we wanted to open a breakfast and lunch place.”
Although the couple didn’t have restaurant experience – they each worked 70 to 75 hours a week in retail management – Tom is a good cook and felt confident he could handle kitchen duties for a family diner. The Sollars felt lucky to find Sam and Lisa Underwood, who had owned Litchfield Restaurant for two years and were willing to take Tom and Margaret in as partners and teach them the business.
They learned, and a year ago the Sollars finished buying the Underwoods out to become the sole proprietors.
“It’s so nice now,” Margaret said. “It took a little while to slow down and get used to a small-town lifestyle. We wanted a more realistic and rural upbringing for our son, and we love it. He spends time running in the woods, riding his ATV, shooting his BB gun, which he could never do in California. The bus drops him off in the restaurant parking lot at 2:40, which is about when we finish our workday, and we have so much family time now.”
The low building is 42 years old, and originally it was a single wide trailer. Over the years two additions have been made to create a bigger kitchen and a roomier dining room. Many locals will remember the McAllisters who owned the restaurant for 20 years.
In addition to being known as a great place to get country cooking, the cafe was referred to as “that smoky old diner.” But two years ago the Sollars changed that policy. They repainted every surface in the low-ceilinged building to get rid of the dank, dingy and smoky atmosphere and aroma and banned smoking inside the building.
“We got a lot of customers back who had stopped eating here because of the smoke,” Margaret said.
Today the restaurant is bright and sunny with windows on three sides. Tables and chairs are utilitarian but there are plenty of them, which is a good thing because crowds of people are served for breakfast and lunch. One long table in the middle of the dining room stays ready for a large work crew that comes in every day for huge meat-and-three daily specials.
What’s to eat
The kitchen is ready by 6:30 a.m. six days a week to start serving Hot Cakes, Waffles, French Toast, Omelets, Wraps, Breakfast Sandwiches, Egg Plates, Biscuits, Oatmeal, Cold Cereal, Danish, Corned Beef Hash, Muffins, Fried Bologna, Sausage Gravy and Cinnamon Toast.
A Specialty of the House is Fish and Grits, which is available all day as is the entire breakfast menu.
But when lunchtime rolls around the menu expands to include Burgers, Barbecue, Chicken-Fried Steak, Fried Flounder, Ribeye Steak and Chicken Tenders. There are salads such as Tuna Salad, Steak Salad, Chef Salad and Fried Chicken Salad. Sandwiches include Hot Turkey or Roast Beef on Texas Toast with gravy; Ribeye Steak Sandwich with grilled onions and Swiss cheese; Tuna Melt; Club Sandwich and more.
Breaded boneless fried Pork Chops are served four ways: Pork Chop Biscuit, Pork Chop and Eggs (with a side and toast or biscuit), Pork Chop Sandwich (with fries, onion rings or house-made chips) and Pork Chop Plate (with fries and slaw).
But the darling of the lunch crowd is the weekday special. There is a specified rotation:
Mondays – Pileau
Tuesdays – Fried Pork Chops or Country-style Steak
Wednesdays – Fried Chicken or Liver with Onions
Thursdays – Baked Ham or Meatloaf
Fridays – Fried Shrimp, Flounder or Smoked Sausage
Specials are $6.50 with two sides or $7.25 with three sides, plus a roll or cornbread and a drink. Those side dishes include rice, mashed potatoes with gravy, white lima beans, deviled eggs, collards, stewed tomatoes and baked apples.
If you have room for dessert there’s pie, which you can have a la mode.
Where: 12223 Ocean Highway, Pawleys Island
Noise level: When it fills up there is definitely a busy and cheerful hubbub, but it isn’t so loud you can’t carry on a conversation.
Vegetarian options: The day I visited there was an additional lunch special of Minestrone Soup, Grilled Cheese Sandwich and a drink for $6.50. There are also salads, the veggie and fruit side dishes and loads of vegetarian breakfast food options like omelets, pancakes, biscuits and cereals.
Smoking: Not allowed.
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
Prices: Nothing on the menu is more than $8.50, and most choices are in the $5-$7 range.
Check for two: A $20 bill will usually cover it, including tax and tip.
Eighteen chefs, including two who work in Georgetown County, competed Feb. 10 at a culinary competition hosted by U.S. Foodservice and the Myrtle Beach chapter of the American Culinary Federation. It was held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. Three certified ACF judges evaluated the chefs in a timed event where they each received a mystery protein and then had an hour and 15 minutes to cook and plate four entrees. Certified Executive Chef Robert Beuth of the Carriage House Club at Litchfield Plantation earned a silver medal, and Executive Chef Ernest Bledsoe of Pawleys Plantation came away with a bronze medal. The overall winner was Robert Wysong, CEC, from The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island.
Perrone’s Open at Night
For the first time, Perrone’s Fine Foods and Market has extended its hours to be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Emi’s Sushi is now being served those evenings, along with other Asian dishes such as soups, Pork Dumplings, Octopus Carpaccio and Calamari Steak. Also available at night are Escargot and Crab Cakes with shallots and mustard cream sauce. Perrone’s is at 13291 Ocean Highway in Pawleys Island, next door to Pawleys Island Golf. Hours are 11 a.m. to close Mondays through Saturdays, and the number is 235-9193.
A first-ever South Carolina Seafood Summit was held Feb. 17 in Charleston at the Clemson Coastal Research & Educational Center/USDA Vegetable Laboratory. The event was hosted by the South Carolina Seafood Alliance, and its goal was to bring together fishermen, vendors, restaurateurs, chefs and other industry representatives to inform about the current state of the local seafood industry and to brainstorm ideas for better promoting the sale and branding of South Carolina seafood. Many ideas were presented, from creating marketing cooperatives to educating restaurateurs that using local seafood can be profitable, because research shows consumers prefer South Carolina seafood over imports.
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