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Joann Pope Elliott has been the chief cook and owner at Ball & Que for 32 years, and as of July 1 has worked at the restaurant for 40 years.
"We just had ham and sausage biscuits, hamburgers, cheeseburgers and homemade vegetable soup when we started," Elliott said at the restaurant on July 6, "and we still make all that. We have the same recipes today."
But these days, the menu is vastly expanded. And every day for 40 years Elliott, who often hears people comment she looks a lot like celebrity restaurateur Paula Deen, has made scratch biscuits and pies such as Derby Pie, Strawberry Pie and Coconut Pie.
She is assisted in the kitchen by head cook Helen King.
Ball & Que started out as a game room, but now the only pool tables left are handy places to hold the vintage dishes being sold at the back of the restaurant, which has been converted to a consignment shop. Elliott says there are Georgetown natives who've never stopped in to eat, because the name made them think it was something other than a restaurant.
But if those folks poked their heads in the door, they'd see a large diner that can seat around 100 hungry people. A long counter wraps around the hidden kitchen, ending in the cash register where diners come and go frequently to pick up carry-out orders.
Upholstered swiveling barstools at the counter are extremely comfortable. Since the counter is raised up, diners' feet can be firmly planted on the floor.
The rest of the dining room is divided into two areas. One has wooden tables and wood ladderback chairs, and the other has an eclectic collection of glass tables, utilitarian metal chairs and curlicue garden-style iron chairs.
It's obvious this is a place with many devoted regular customers. Elliot said some fans who come eat breakfast and/or lunch every day even have their regular seats.
Georgetown natives Wayne and Jennifer Coker have been eating at Ball & Que about 10 times per week since the early 1970s.
"We eat breakfast here every day," Wayne said while finishing up his Ham Pileau, "and come in for lunch two or three times a week. I used to bring my (late) father in here, and they kept him alive with their good food."
The Cokers said the warm service they receive is just as much the cause of their repeat visits as their fondness for the food.
What's to eat
At breakfast Elliott's fresh biscuits are in high demand. There are egg plates that can come with regular ham, country ham, fried bologna, corned beef hash, country link sausage, smoked sausage and rib-eye steak. There's a variety of omelets, and those biscuits can be filled with a variety of ingredients or topped with sausage gravy. Waffles can be plain or fruit-topped, and a couple of pancakes costs $3.
Breakfast sides include grits, hash browns, oatmeal, cereal and honey buns.
For lunch the main attraction is the daily meat-and-three special. On July 6 the entree choices were Fried Chicken, Ham Pileau and Fried Porkchop, and the sides were Rice & Gravy, Lima Beans, Steamed Cabbage, Fried Okra, Candied Yams, Potato Salad and Lemon Cake.
The lunch and dinner menu also offer several salads, including chicken, shrimp and salmon salad, and sandwiches such as burgers, Philly Cheese Steak, Turkey Club, Grilled Chicken, barbecue and BLT. Bigger meals are a quarter of a fried chicken, a barbecue platter and fried seafood platters.
Desserts include 14-layer Chocolate or Caramel Cake, Apple Pie and Coconut Pie, plus Elliott makes other daily special pies and cakes.
I tried the fried chicken, which had a warm brown crispy skin, and even 10 minutes after the plate was put in front of me the meat was still piping hot and melt-in-your-mouth tender. The rice & gravy has wonderfully firm and separate grains, but it was bland. Salt and pepper fixed it right up.
Steamed cabbage had a rich and wonderful mouth feel and sweet flavor that told me some bacon grease and sugar was slipped into the pot. Candied yams were gloriously caramelized with nary a marshmallow in sight. And the cornbread - it is magnificently tall, light and fluffy, and it is slightly sweet without a cake effect.
If you have a crowd to feed, with advance notice the Ball & Que team can provide whole fried chickens, whole pies and cakes, gallons of chili and tea and biscuits by the dozen, crab dip and barbecue in 2-pound packages.
Ball & Que
Where: 1808 Highmarket St., Georgetown
Phone: 546-6404 and 546-9903
Noise Level: You hear friends chatting, laughing and greeting each other; the clink of diners' silverware and glasses; and the rattle of pots and pans in the kitchen.
Vegetarian Options: At breakfast there are omelets with grits and biscuits, waffles, pancakes, hash browns, oatmeal, cereal and egg or cheese (or both) biscuits. For lunch and dinner you can substitute a side for the meat in the daily meat-and-three special; they also have Jalapeno Poppers, Sweet Potato Fries, Cheese Fries, Onion Rings, Fried Mushrooms, Fried Mozzarella, Tossed Salad, Cornbread, Grilled Cheese, Baked Potato and terrific desserts.
Smoking: Not allowed
Hours: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays
Prices: Breakfast averages about $5, lunches about $7, and dinners are $6-$15.
Check for Two: Including tips, breakfast would be about $15 and lunch about $20. If you go for the dinner platters, make it $30.
Finocchio's is back
Finocchio's Italian Ristorante in Murrells Inlet suffered a major fire in November 2009, but now chef/proprietor John Finocchio has a beautiful new interior with three separate room and is cooking the dishes his longtime customers have been missing.
The house-made pasta, the garlic balsamic reduction, the brandy cream sauce - they're all back.
Finocchio’s is at 3100 U.S. 17 in Murrells Inlet, and the number is (843) 651-2110.
It opens daily at 5 p.m.
Tailgator's scheduled to open this week
As of press time, Tailgator's was scheduled to open this week in the former Buzz's Roost location at 251 Willbrook Blvd. in the Litchfield section of Pawleys Island, in the Mingo development. Partners Dan O'Neill and John Russell aim to provide a family atmosphere and excellent customer service to enjoy an approachable menu with unique flair, plus indoor and outdoor bars and live entertainment. The executive chef is Grand Strand native Ty Hulsey, a Johnson & Wales graduate with extensive experience. A few menu examples include Baja Fish Tacos, Paninis, and Crab Cakes with roasted red pepper remoulade. Children have $5 meal choices. Tailgator's is open daily starting at 11 a.m., and the number is 314-3307.
Local celebrates 30 years of employment
King Henry Gary is celebrating a big employment anniversary: he has worked 30 years for the Vereen family at their different businesses. On a recent Tuesday afternoon he was raking the dirt parking lot for Russell Vereen at Russell's Seafood Grill at 4700 U.S. 17 Business in Murrells Inlet. "This is a nice place to work," Gary says.
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