by Sandra Stringer
Sean Mendes has already had success with his Blues Cajun Kitchen and Roadside Seafood restaurants. Now he’s starting a new restaurant focused on the food that his grandmother introduced to him to as a child. And he’s pretty excited about it.
Gillie is the foundation
Sean Mendes describes soul food as the staples of his diet growing up. “Watching my grandmother create this magic in the kitchen every Sunday and throughout the week is what first got me interested…she was kind of like the foundation. It was red rice and lima beans, okra soup and all that good stuff all the time.”
The name of the restaurant, Gillie’s, comes from his grandmother. Her last name was Gilliard, so she was nicknamed Gillie. The food Sean will be offering honors her cooking style. Sean says, “I’m kind of giving James Island a taste of what I grew up on”.
He hopes the restaurant will bring back memories for his customers. “All of my food memories are usually tied to a special occasion or Sunday dinner. You eat a bowl of macaroni and cheese and it takes you back to that time…it gives you the warm fuzzies.”
It takes time to make soul food
The food at Gillie’s takes time and careful effort to prepare and cook properly, but because most of it is cooked ahead of time, Sean says, “The food’s gonna come out pretty fast. It’s so prep intensive that I’ve got prep cooks whose only job is to come in here and make batches and batches of collard greens, limas…” Only the stuff that’s fried will require cooking by order. He’s hoping to focus on having people come in and sit down for a meal, but he also plans to have large to-go orders of sides available to complement home meals.
Being a part of the Chef Ambassador program, Sean works to source his food locally whenever possible. There’s rarely a need to source their ingredients outside of South Carolina because, he says, “our state provides pretty much everything”.
What’s on the menu
Sean says that the “price point is going to be reasonable. We just want to feed a lot of people and make them happy. That’s our goal”. They’re going to have pork chops, smothered turkey wings, country-style ribs, meatloaf, liver & onions, limas, collards, red rice, baked macaroni and cheese, black-eyed peas, grits, and more. “We’ll have twelve proteins and 12 sides, and you can customize your meal.”
He hopes to start serving Sunday brunch in the Autumn. It will be a “gospel brunch served from 12 to 2…we’ll bring some singers in and we’ll have things like…instead of chicken and waffles it’ll be shrimp and waffles, seafood omelette, pancakes with fresh fruit” and more.
Locals are asked to help with the decor
Gillie’s will be located at 805 Folly Road at the former location of Taproom 805 next door to Roadside Seafood . They’re working on the landscaping in the next few weeks and have leased the lot behind the restaurant for ample parking that can be accessed either by the driveway to the left of the restaurant or by turning down the road by the Sweetwater Cafe and turning left behind it to access the parking lot.
They are working on changes to the look of both the interior and exterior before they get started. They’ve asked locals to bring in photographs of their grandmothers, framed and no larger than 8 x 10, to put up on the walls.
Some people (including yours truly) have dropped photos off already, but he’s hoping many more will contribute to the work in progress on a large photo gallery of grandmothers. Sean says, “I’m excited! I can’t wait to get them on the wall.” You can drop off your framed photos at the Blues Cajun Kitchen.
Enjoying what you do
“My Dad told me growing up, “Whatever you decide to do, make sure you enjoy it. All the other stuff comes as long as you enjoy what you do”. Like a lot of chefs he knows, he is motivated by seeing the happy reactions from his customers. “I love what I do.”
Sean Mendes hopes to have the restaurant open by the end of July at the latest. Their hours will be 11 am to 10 pm, 7 days a week. We’ll let you know the opening date as soon as that information becomes available!