Now Open: Freddy’s 2nd Location

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

2865 Sunset Blvd., West Columbia | 803.851.1964


Freddy’s is a family-friendly eatery that has a retro-50’s feel to its decor and a tasty menu with an appeal that will span the generations. Freddy’s has grown its stellar reputation in other parts of the country, so we where so excited when they opened their doors here in Columbia back in February….and we are even more thrilled that their SECOND location opened last week!


Sunday – Thursday: 10:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Friday – Saturday: 10:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

Weekday Therapy: Crêpes and Croissants

Monday mornings can be difficult, and to start the week off right, we decided a good

Chocolate Strawberry Crepe Lo-Res

Chocolate & Strawberry Crêpe

breakfast was in order. As it was approaching Bastille Day, France’s national holiday, French fare seemed appropriate, so we stopped in to one of Columbia’s favorite continental restaurants, Crêpes and Croissants.

C&C’s owner and Master Crêpe Maker, Laurent, was happy to see us and show off some of the recent changes he’s made to his establishment. New Parisian-themed decor on the walls and European-flavored background music even further enhances the feeling you get while enjoying dishes from the menu, that you’re no longer on Sumter Street in downtown Columbia, but in a small cafe along the Seine, without a care in the world! Laurent’s menu features options that are perfect for any time of the day; sweet and savory crêpes, quiche, French toast, salads, sandwiches, omelettes and desserts, with flavors and combinations that you won’t see anywhere else.

Peach french toast.jpg

Princess Peach French Toast

Spinach Brie Omelet Lo-Res.jpg

Spinach Brie Omelet

As a group with varied tastes, we all tried different things. Laurent, seemingly without effort, made each and every dish himself that morning, and quickly! After a very short wait, he was serving them all up. Kathy enjoyed a simple yet flaky-scrumptious croissant, Carmen ordered the #2 Omelette, with Brie, ham, tomato and spinach, Sarah opted for the #1, with bacon, cheddar and caramelized onion, Michaela road-tested the chocolate and strawberry crêpe, Sydney got  a classic sweet crepe, and Miriam made us all jealous with her Princess Peach Toast, which featured perfectly prepared French Toast surrounded by warm peaches, and topped with vanilla ice cream and powdered sugar. What a treat! The attempt by all of us to sample a range of items from the menu didn’t quite work out, as the intended sharing of dishes went out the window. For that reason, we each decided we would have to return to try each and every dish we did not get to taste! Croissant Lo Res

Merci beaucoup, Laurent, for giving us a wonderful beginning to our work week! Midlands bosses, if you want to treat your staff to an extra-special motivational meal, or your clients to a super impressive spread, check out Laurent’s catering menu, complete with breakfast and lunch options, and a mouth-watering selection of pastries!

Address: 1465 Sumter Street, Columbia

Phone Number: 803.462.4779


Weekdays: 7am – 2pm
Saturdays: 8am – 2pm
Sundays: 10am – 2pm

Coming Soon: Duck Donuts

Duck Donuts

702 Cross Hill Rd, 100B, Columbia


Duck Donuts got its start in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and quickly grew to add stores in almost a dozen additional states, including South Carolina, which will count Columbia as its second SC location very soon (projected in July)!

Duck Donuts is famous for its warm, delicious made to order donuts “the way YOU like”! Here’s how it works: start with one of Duck’s freshly made donuts, pick a Coating (Cinnamon-Sugar, Chocolate Icing, Maple Icing, etc.), then pick a Topping (Sprinkles, Oreos, Bacon Pieces, etc.) and finally, choose your Drizzle (Hot Fudge, Salted Caramel, Raspberry or Blackberry). And there you have it: your perfect donut! Duck also offers breakfast sandwiches, premium roasted coffee including flavored coffees and espresso, and tea and other beverages. Be sure to Like and Follow their Facebook page HERE for updates!

You Have to Try this Place: Lima Peruvian Cuisine

The first time I tried Lima Peruvian Cuisine (on Rosewood Drive inside the Jim Casey Fireworks complex), I felt a bit uneasy as I read the menu. Nothing sounded familiar, and although I consider myself fairly adventurous, and the menu had a photo of each dish, I didn’t know what to expect.  I hadn’t looked on a map of South America lately to know where Peru is located (I have since then!) and didn’t know if I should expect something similar to Mexican food or what.  Peruvian food is very different from Mexican food.  Not a taco in sight.  Peru is a country on the Pacific coast of South America, and hence, has many traditional dishes made with seafood.  That was fine by me.  I love seafood.

Lima Peruvian Food and Drink.jpg

I asked Ruth, the congenial smiley owner of Lima Peruvian Cuisine, what she would suggest I try, considering I had not eaten this type of food.  She pointed to Causa and to Choros a la Chalaca.  I chose them both.  Causa is made in a mold and is quite a beautiful little dish.  Two layers of mashed potatoes seasoned with Peruvian spices and a hint of lemon are on either side of a delicious filling made with, your choice, of tuna, chicken, shrimp or vegetable salads. I tried the shrimp salad.  Served cold, it was refreshing.  I couldn’t believe that cold mashed potatoes could taste this good!  The Choros a la Chalaca were mussels served on the half shell, marinated in lime juice.  They came topped with a yummy combination of tomatoes, cilantro, onions and fresh corn.  Hands down, the best mussels ever.
I was so excited about this wonderful lunch experience, I raced home that evening, gushing with enthusiasm.  My husband said he’d like to try it, so we went that night!  He 20170314_123345tried the Lomo Saltado – thin strips of beef sauteed with fresh onions and tomatoes, and served with rice and french fries.  I asked Ruth if that was traditional… rice and french fries, and she said yes, that french fries are very popular in Peru.  The potato is very popular, served many ways. I tried the Leche de Tigre… I am afraid if I tell you the ingredients you won’t try it, but you should!  Okay, here goes: ground fish marinated in lime juice, onion, Peruvian rocoto chilies, ginger, garlic and cilantro, and accompanied with shrimp.  It was wonderful – like ceviche! And I had a salad along with it.  Their salads are different from what we’ve come to expect here in the USA –  they contain potatoes, beets and avocado, and other items (depending on the salad).  All is served fresh and made to order.  We loved it for dinner too!
The atmosphere is bright and cheerful with traditional woven cloths adorning the tables.  Peruvian souvenirs are for sale in a case near the entrance.  Ruth has applied for a liquor license so hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail with our next meal there.  You really have to try this place! — Kathy Gardener
3830 Rosewood Drive | 803.851.3646 | Visit FB page here

Coming Soon

Quaker Steak and Lube lube-burger

2154 South Beltline Blvd. | 803.908.4905

Quaker Steak and Lube, a national chain is set to open a new location on Wednesday, March 15th. It’s on South Beltline near the I-77 interchange.  Moms and dads will love the family-feel to their menu, including a kid’s section for 8 years and under called Kids Lube Cruisers which are served with a FREE fountain beverage, apple juice, or low-fat milk and choice of carrots, Jell-O, applesauce, crispy fries, apple wedges, or baked Cheddar Goldfish!  View local menu here; featuring a superabundance of delicious menu items including seafood, baby back ribs, steak dinners, specialty salads & soups and more! By the way the building will also have a kids arcade center, a bowling alley, and a Starbucks.

Pelican’s SnoBalls

1912 Rosewood Drive | 919.614.2080

Snoballs.jpgOpens for the warmer months beginning on March 1st, 2017. They are moving from 1900 Rosewood a few blocks down to 1912 Rosewood, so enjoy their plethora of flavors there Foodies!

Other locations set to open on March 1st: 

202 Graces Way, Columbia (Northeast)
517 North Lake Drive, Lexington

Coming Soon:

Irmo – 6165 St. Andrews Rd.

More location information here.


Mon – Thursday: 12pm-9pm
Friday – Saturday: 12pm – 10pm
Sunday: 2pm – 10pm

Twin Peaks

Have you noticed the impressive bronze elk standing at attention on the corner of Gervais and Pulaski Streets and the “Twin Peaks” sign on the building behind it? Their tongue-in-cheek moniker and the slogan “Eats… Drinks… Scenic Views” belie the fact that behind the facade lives a culinary giant and an incredible entertainment experience.  If I was able, through the written word, to shout really, really loudly “you’ve gotta try this place!” I would do it.

I was absolutely blown away by Twin Peaks’ food and drink.

Chicken sliders Twin Peaks.pngThe apps. We started by splitting an order of Buttermilk Chicken Sliders, a pair of battered fried chicken sandwiches, served on house made buttermilk black pepper biscuits. These fat little biscuits are to-die-for.  Layers of warm goodness, buttered and toasted. The moist little chicken breast offered up crunchy texture and was topped with an amazing combination of hollandaise, jalapeno gravy (both house made) and American cheese, along with a slab of their signature “Billionaire Bacon”.  Billionaire Bacon is thick cut, spiced just right and caramelized in the Twin Peaks’ oven every morning. Two hands needed to eat these babies!

Before we could finish the sliders, our sweet little server brought out a basket of thin and crispy warm tortilla chips along with a trio of house-made dips, knownTwin Peaks nachos.jpg as the “Triple Play.  Amazing. My fave, the “smashed avocado”, is a delicious combination of chopped avocado, tomato, onion and a blend of spices that makes this truly the best guacamole ever.  That’s why they don’t call it “guacamole”… it’s in a class by itself.  Another dip was the home-made salsa, a flavorful sauce made daily with chargrilled tomatoes and peppers and just the right amount of spices – you can taste more than just the heat.  Wonderful. The third dip was a chipotle queso… house-made from scratch.  Finally the mozzarella bites.  I NEVER order these as they are always a frozen then fried cruddy breaded cheese in the shape of a stick.  I definitely will be ordering the Twin Peaks’ Mozzarella Bites again.  Lightly breaded with panko bread crumbs and made-to-order, they’re nice-sized cubes of high quality mozzarella served with homemade ranch dressing and marinara sauce.  You’ll fall in love after one bite.  Click on this ad and get a special offer – buy 6 wings and get 6 wings free!Twin_Peaks_Banner_ad

The beer.  OMG. A 22 oz. frosted mug of Yuengling never looked so good.  I learned that Twin Peaks washes their beer mugs by themselves at 180 degrees, so they’re clean as a whistle and dried thoroughly before they’re frozen at -10 degrees. No chunks of ice sliding off while you’re trying to drink. Nope. I put the glass to my lips and got the most refreshing delight on a hot Columbia afternoon… tiny ice crystals of beer tickling my tongue.  Mugs at Twin Peaks.pngThe Twin Peaks’ draft beer system was custom-made to keep beer at 29 degrees. Electronic signage in the restaurant lets patrons know the exact temperature of their drafts at any given moment. It defies science and logic but the beer doesn’t freeze. It is absolutely cold and refreshing.  32 beers on tap including local brews from River Rat, Conquest, Palmetto Brewing, Thomas Creek and more. They also serve 4 signature beers brewed just for Twin Peaks.

The whiskey. Have you ever had whiskey served over a hand-crafted ice ball, that has been formed in mere moments before your very eyes? Me neither. Watching them create the ice ball was so much fun!  A chunk of ice is put into their 18 pound aluminum press, which pulls the cold out and causes it to melt, leaving only a perfectly condensed sphere of solid ice that is then plunked into your cocktail glass. Ice ball at Twin PeaksYour spirits are poured over the top of the ice ball, which melts at an incredibly slow and even rate in order to avoid diluting the distinctive flavors and aromas of your drink.  Twin Peaks’ whiskey selection rivals any in town, offering 60+ different distills, and includes 19 Kentucky Bourbons, 10 American Whiskies and Ryes, 15 Scotches (try the Johnnie Blue or Macallan 18 year) and a selection of Canadian and Japanese blends.

The entrees. I tried the Greek Salad.  The folks at Zorba’s better sit up and take notice.  The Greek Salad was incredible. A combination of spring mix (my favorite salad greens) along with baby kale, pepperoncini, artichoke, red onions, grape tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese and crunchy fried capers (a first for me… who would think to bread and fry little capers? A genius thought that one up!)  I also ordered a skewer of grilled shrimp for a nominal additional charge.  Loved ’em. Nice sized with grill marks! A house-made herb vinaigrette dressed it out and it was no-kidding incredible.    My lunch-mate ordered the Trophy Trout, which Twin Peaks buys fresh and is chargrilled and finished with a roasted garlic lime butter.  Our server told us this dish is so good it was featured on the cover of an Atlanta’s Flavors magazine.  It came with mashed potatoes (handmade throughout the day) and fresh veggies. Thumbs way, way up!  Our third table guest ordered a Billionaire’s Bacon Burger – hand-pressed and seared on the grill.  Burger and beer at Twin PeaksLove bacon? This fella is laced with bacon, served on a fresh, never-frozen, locally-baked bun and dressed with sriracha pimento cheese, billionaire’s bacon, lettuce, tomato, bacon beer mustard and bacon mayo! Served with aromatic, beautiful, fresh cut fries. You’ve gotta try this place!

The place for sports. Sports fans – this is THE PLACE to watch any televised game. Twin Peaks subscribes to every sports package available… ALL pay-per-views, every MLB game, NFL game, NHL game, NBA game, college game… all of ’em. And patrons are treated to 60 big screens (all of them either 60, 70 or 80 inches wide!) in a seating arrangement that allows every guest to see at least 6 screens at any one time!  Twin Peaks tv's

The decor. The decor reminded me of a fishing lodge in New Hampshire that I visited as a child.  Hand-hewn wood paneling lines the interior walls, a large canoe hangs from the ceiling, multiple stone fireplaces glow with warmth (in cooler weather) and the furnishings are beautifully rustic, hand crafted and feature soft upholstery.  I sat on a bar stool for almost 2 hours and stayed comfy.   The walls that face Gervais feature garage doors that roll up in nice weather and sections can be cordened off for private parties, including fireplaces for you and your friends to sit around.

The cheerleaders.  A female staff of servers reminded us of a bevy of beautiful college cheerleaders – they served us with wide smiles and classic, southern hospitality.  Whatever you’ve heard about this place and the dress of their staff, relax.  You’ll feel comfortable in here with your wife, your girlfriend and your kids.  The Twin Peaks’ staff wears the same type of apparel you see on a cheerleader at a football game or on a lifeguard at the beach. Their aim is to make everyone at your table feel comfortable and have a great experience!Twin Peaks servers

The price. A gourmet bar and food experience with a casual dining price tag. Seriously.  The average food/drink tab is a mere $16! That’s amazing. And, Twin Peaks offers a 20% discount for all military/first responders & USC Student, faculty and staff with Valid ID.

The parking. A generous free parking lot behind the building and parking all along Pulaski Street.  Find that anywhere else in the Vista.

Bottom line. You have to try this place.

Location: 600 Gervais Street | Columbia SC | 803.602.3667

Hours: Everyday 11am – 2am


Shared Recipes!

Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse: Mint and Lemon Pepper Marinated Lamb Chops w/ Pearl CousCous (4 servings)

Visit Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse online!

photo of lamb chops, pearl couscous, Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse, Rioz Steakhouse recipes

Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse’s own Mint and Lemon Pepper Marinated Lamb Chops w/ Pearl CousCous!

Marinated and Grilled Lamb Chops

Fresh Mint Leaves- 4 cups
Lemon Pepper Seasoning-1 TBSP
Fajita Seasoning-1 TBSP
Sea Salt-1 TSP
White Wine-2 cups
Lamb Chops-12 chops

Combine first five ingredients in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and all ingredients are fully incorporated. Set marinade aside. (marinade can be made in advance). Prior to grilling lamb chops, baste each chop with marinade. Cook lamb chops 2-3 mins on each side over medium-high heat. During grilling process, baste the chops with marinade often. Remove lamb chops from grill, allowing the chops to rest before serving over couscous.

Pearl CousCous

Pearl Couscous-1 1/3 cups (about 7 ounces)
Chicken Stock -2 ½ Cups
Sea Salt-1 TSP
Extra Virgin Olive Oil-2 TBSP
Black Pepper-1/4 TSP
Green Peas (frozen)-1 cup thawed
1 Yellow Pepper- Roasted and thinly sliced
1 Red Pepper-Roasted and thinly sliced
Dried Cranberry-1/2 Cup
Fresh Mint Leaves

In a large sauce pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook until lightly toasted (about 2-3 mins). Add the stock, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until couscous is tender, but still firm to the bite (about 8mins). Stir in peas, sliced peppers, cranberries. Scoop to plate. Top with Grilled Lamb Chops and fresh mint.

Little Pigs BBQ: Potato Salad

A favorite from their famous buffet! Visit Little Pigs Barbecue online!

Little Pigs, potato salad, potato salad recipes

Little Pig’s famous potato salad recipe is sure to be a crowd pleaser for any gathering!

3 lbs. Potatoes (peeled and diced)
1 large Onion (diced fine)
2 cups Mayonnaise (dukes)
1 cup Celery (diced fine)
4 each Boiled eggs (diced)
4 tablespoon Mustard
1 cup Pickle relish (sweet)
2 tsp. Salt
1 tablespoon Black pepper
1 dash Cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Paprika

Boil potatoes until tender (do not over cook). Drain. Add mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and onion too hot potatoes. Place in refrigerator for one hour. Take out of refrigerator and add the rest of the ingredients, except paprika. Put back in refrigerator untill chilled. Take out and sprinkle paprika over the top before serving.

Ruth’s Chris Sweet Potato Casserole

Photo of Ruths Chris sweet potato casserole with pecan crust, Ruths Chris side dishes

Savor a taste of heaven with Ruth’s Chris’ fan favorite: Pecan-Crusted Sweet Potato Casserole!

Pecan-crusted heaven! Make reservations at Ruth’s Chris here!

Crust mixture:
1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans preferred)
1/3 stick butter, melted

Combine brown sugar, flour, nuts and butter in mixing bowl. Set aside.

Sweet potato mixture:
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a medium-size casserole dish with nonstick spray. Combine sweet potatoes, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs and butter in a large mixing bowl in the order listed. Beat thoroughly with a hand mixer to increase the fluffiness of the sweet potato mixture. Pour mixture into buttered baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. (At this point, dish can be covered and refrigerated.) Sprinkle the surface of the sweet potato mixture evenly with the crust mixture and return to oven for 10 minutes. Allow to set at least 30 minutes before serving. The brown sugar and pecan crust should be slightly browned and crunchy.

Ricky Mollohan of Caffe Ventures


Why did you decide to go into the restaurant business?

After waiting tables and working in kitchens for a couple years at the end of high school and early on in college, I felt like I could make each place I had worked better. And I enjoyed the fast pace of things always happening, of different challenges each day, and certainly being around food and wine was a big plus.

What made you decide to open more than one restaurant?


Ricky Mollohan heads Caffe Ventures, and is the proprietor at Mr. Friendly’s, Solstice Kitchen and Cellar on Greene.

I think it was a combination of a new challenge and the fact that I had made enough contacts in the business, as well as had a good core group of co-workers and employees who were ready for a new challenge. Faith in others who could help keep each individual restaurant successful.

How did you decide on the locations for each of your restaurants?

Solstice was a leap of faith in a sense, but the demographics proved there are lots of folks out in Northeast Columbia, so I felt like we were gaining customers who lived a little too far away to be Mr. Friendly’s customers. As far as Cellar on Greene, it was definitely convenient, and the landlord gave me plenty of time to open it/renovate, so I was able to put a little money in bit by bit. And after seeing how other wine shop/restaurant combos had failed in Columbia, I felt like I had seen the inner workings of what it would take to keep the original idea intact for good.

How did you decide on the names for your restaurants?
Mr. Friendly’s was the name of the sandwich/ice cream shop that occupied what is the dining room area of the restaurant until late 1994, and the old sign had a mouse on it, so I guess he was Mr. Friendly? The term “New Southern Cafe” came as a means to distinguish it from the Friendly’s ice cream company. Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar was given the “Solstice” part  by an old business partner, as we tried to figure out a new name to seasonal cooking. I’m still not sure everyone actually knows what it means, but at least most folks can pronounce it now! Adding “Kitchen & Wine Bar” to the end of it gave it a little of a feel of comfort I hope. Being that “Kitchen” is an approachable word, and that Wine Bar I think says “yeah, we have a bar, but it’s more for wine drinkers than party animals”. As for Cellar on Greene, it was pretty easy…wine and “cellar”, and we’re (sort of) on Greene street. Plus, I’ve always found one-word restaurant names to be weird. Or maybe a little bit pretentious. Even if people refer to them as just “Solstice” or “Cellar” or “Friendly’s”, I just think it sounds weird. It’s like naming yourself Madonna or Prince.

Tell me a little about each restaurant and what you like about each of them.

Well, Mr. Friendly’s is my heart and soul. Next to meeting my wife, I’d say that the luckiest I ever got was when Cary Wolfe told me to come check out where he was cooking in 1996. I had just quit the USC golf team and had to start waiting tables to help pay for college, and I lucked up and discovered Mr. Friendly’s in its early stage. The owners were young and had lots of ideas, the staff was full of folks who now own other restaurants, manage other restaurants, etc… and at that time, everyone brought something different to the table,  but everyone shared in the idea that dining out didn’t have to be stuffy, or intimidating, and that it should be fun, and taste good. I think it’s still that today, and for that, I could never thank all of them enough for laying the foundation. I’d like to change a lot of things about it, but honestly, I’m scared to! I may not have opened it from day one, but I’ve spent five times as many hours at Mr. Friendly’s as anyone, and it feels like home every time I walk in.

Mac and Cheese

The Mac and Cheese with gooey melted cheese and bacon bits at Solsitce Kitchen is sure to have your tastebuds craving for more.

What I love about Solstice is that it represents how hard this business can be, but also how great it can be. In 2009, I honestly did not think we would make it. The economy turned sour, and folks in Northeast Columbia felt it worse than others. But we stuck it out, and I’ve kept some of the same core beliefs that I’ve had about Mr. Friendly’s, as well as taking a few more “risks” to make Solstice stand out. Plus, seeing it from a field of dirt and grass, to what it has become, with lots of folks coming and going, yeah, it’s pretty darn cool!

As far as Cellar on Greene, it makes me feel “refreshed”. The success of literally operating two businesses under one roof isn’t something many other places other than Gourmet Shop have succeeded with in Columbia. I was a partner at Gervais & Vine for years, and we tried something similar, but you have to a daily commitment to BOTH the retail side and the restaurant side to get customers for both on a daily basis. I’m proud of what we offer, both where unique wines are concerned, as well as the fact that the food isn’t over the top, but it’s good. We don’t try to out-cook what we’re capable of in there. It’s another very small kitchen with limited space for equipment, and although I would love to have a “real” restaurant kitchen and slick, modern wine shelving, Cellar is what it is…100% ours.

How did you decide on the decor of each restaurant? Are they similar in how they were decorated, or did you want to change the look up for each restaurant?


Come out to Mr. Friendly’s for some southern cooking and good time with friends.

Each place has it’s own feel, and that’s definitely by design. Mr. Friendly hasn’t changed too much over the years. It’s supposed to have that bistro-feel and I think it does. We can turn the lights down just enough at night to give it that touch of fine-r dining, but the bright sun during the day gives it a really vibrant feel when we’re busy. It’s had its’ share of paint jobs, some new carpet, additional wine racks…but the brick wall dominates the dining room and the artwork changes several times a year, so it stays fresh for the most part.

Cellar on Greene utilizes the funny “slant” of the building. That entire space used to be about sixteen different tiny little offices, so you don’t realize how weird that space really is sometimes. The big beam running through the dining room is really our only area to add much flair with lighting. My wife picked out the colors and helped me a lot with laying it out. I wish we had one more set of windows, and the old roof up there has been a pain, but we’ve kept it clean, and neat for the most part. Nothing intimidating about it and I think the bar stool height chairs create a more “pub” atmosphere, so it certainly feels less formal than Friendly’s to most. And I let the staff play some funky music too, but that’s mostly because the kitchen echoes like the Grand Canyon.

As for Solstice, the goal from day one was to think “Atlanta” when someone walked in. Nicer (don’t get me started) lightning, fresh colors, dark wood tables, a beautiful
bar, big and expensive artworks, etc…all amidst the service you’d expect from a white tablecloth restaurant. I want it to feel like YES, it’s the nicest place in the Northeast. But, I don’t want anyone to have too feel like a pair of jeans and a golf shirt isn’t dressy enough.

What is the biggest struggle you have come across when trying to start a restaurant?

Cellar on Greene

Oysters fried to crispy perfection and the side vegetable from Cellar on Greene are sure to please!

This is the easiest question of all…convincing a bank that you are not some fool trying to fulfill a pipe dream by opening a restaurant! Everyone has heard the statistics…something like 80% of restaurants fail in the first year. I’m sure they do. And that’s cause they loan money based on collateral first, and experience second. But it’s probably a good thing it’s been this tough, otherwise I’d probably have five restaurants by now!

How do you manage to keep all of the restaurants staffed and running efficiently?

Do I? ha! Well, I think that I do most of the time. Honestly, I’m like a substitute teacher a lot of times…you never know where I’ll be filling in!  I just believe in making all of our employees feel like they are joining a new little “family” when they come work for me. I expect a lot out of them, and their co-workers do too. There’s good money to be made at the restaurants if you put in the work. Yeah, we’re a bit dysfunctional, perhaps, but all restaurants have their scars where the ups and downs are concerned. I just try to be very accepting of all the different folks that work at the restaurants. I don’t overwork them, I still do all of the schedules, I believe in days off, and I enjoy paying people what I’m quite certain is better than most restaurants do. Just some of those things go a long way where having dependable people are concerned. But at the end of the day, you never know who may/may not show up or walk-out at any given time, so remaining very hands-on from my end is definitely very key.

What are some qualities you look for in your staff?

Accountability, Honesty, Competitiveness, Passion for food and wine, and the ability to work well with others. Just “being here” isn’t good enough. You have to want to be here. You have to want to get better, and make those around you better. And you have to be adult enough to deal with your personal issues, but still come in ready to work hard and smile your way through it. Even if the boss (me) doesn’t always lead by example.

How do you decide who your suppliers are going to be?

Solstice Kitchen beef

Solstice Kitchen prepares a scrumptious meal with beef marinated in house sauces and choice of two delicious sides.

It’s a combination of a few things. Obviously the products themselves are what gets them in the door. After that it’s about being reliable for sure, but also being easy to work with, fun to talk to, and generally caring about the restaurants. I’ve turned down all sorts of little bribes and perks to buy from some suppliers, just cause it wasn’t the kind of people I wanted to have to deal with every other day. You scratch my back, I scratch yours only works if you have an itch I guess.

How do you decide which items are going to be on the menu?
Availability, seasonality, functionality, and is it something that WE want to eat/drink? Will it catch someone’s eye? Will the staff get behind it? Are other restaurants doing
something similar? How much does it cost? Can we get more? I could go on forever…

Looking back on your business decisions, is there anything you wish you could have done differently?

Of course! There’s times where I wish I would’ve trusted my instincts more. There’s times I wish I would’ve asked for help with things. There’s times I’ve trusted certain people, probably done waaaaayyyy too much for people, only to have it come back to bite me. But in the end, I try to be honest with everyone. I’ve never done anything to hurt the businesses. Not knowingly. But it’s just not that simple. There’s just too many pieces and parts to make everyone happy, but I still wish I could figure out how to do so. Overall though, I’m pretty happy. We’ve seen employees and customers come and go, and I really believe most folks are better off after spending some time at the restaurants, so that makes me feel good.

This isn’t easy. It’s not perfect. But it’s not supposed to be. There’s lots of things I wish I could do differently today! But there’s more than one way to do ANYTHING, so whatever way we are doing it today, well, we’ll do it the best way possible and go from there!