Anyone who knows me knows my love for Southern Charm Kitchen. I'm a frequent visitor of this East Gainesville gem, and I even took over the place for my 27th birthday back in February (you’ll find all the embarrassing and ridiculous photos on their Facebook page). That said, this is a long overdue introduction for anyone who has not yet eaten here.
Southern cuisine has really picked up in popularity over the last few years, it seems like Southern-inspired restaurants are popping up everywhere, and more people are interested in Chicken & Waffles and grits than ever before. SCK opened about a year ago, owned and operated by the same folks that brought you the popular Reggae Shack Cafe. Located on Hawthorne Road just east of Waldo Road, it's easy to miss if you blink. The parking lot is small, so even on a semi-busy night, parking overflows into the grass area behind the restaurant, there's one small sign that is only visible from west-bound traffic, and it's not exactly in the best part of town. But this is the definition of a diamond in the rough.
I could really just end the review with one sentence; the food is fantastic. But that wouldn't do it justice. The interior is beautiful, bright, simple, and most definitely lives up to its namesake. The food is very reasonably priced, with most entrees between $8 and $12. The service is nothing short of fantastic, though it will take a while to get your food on a busy night, you will never be greeted by anything but a warm smile. Most importantly, the food is fresh (they grow their own herbs and vegetables in the adjacent lot) and made to order.
While many of the menu items are familiar Southern fare, there are a few items that really set SCK apart, namely the vegetarian/vegan options. Finding a restaurant that serves vegetarian Southern food is like finding a giant SUV that’s great on gas, it just doesn’t happen. But yet, SCK offers items like Country Fried Tofu, BBQ Black-Eyed Tempeh, and Country Fried Seitan. All of which are absolutely delicious, and that’s coming from someone who is a hardcore carnivore. Don’t worry though, there’s plenty of Oxtail, Roasted Chicken with Caramel & Smoked Salt, Ribs, and the best damn fried chicken in town for all the meat eaters. I cannot stress that last point enough. Whatever you get, make sure you try their Pentacostal Fried Chicken, it’s delicious and has an awesome backstory to boot.
This is not a super fancy restaurant. It’s not upscale, it’s not expensive or pretentious, and there are no pretenses here. It’s a place with a great atmosphere, great people, great food, low prices, and where you’re treated like family. No other restaurant in town comes as close to a perfect product as Southern Charm Kitchen, and I believe it’s truly what a quality restaurant should be. You’d be a fool to not visit at least once, and I promise you’ll go back.
(Pictured, clockwise from top right: Country Fried Tofu, Pentacostal Fried Chicken w/ Corn Succotash & Mashed Potatoes, Sock It To Me Cake, and the dining area)