Another typical day at Grits and Groceries Restaurant in Belton, S.C.
The kitchen is churning out plates of food, and there’s hardly an empty seat in the dining area. That activity on the interior belies the fact that this place sits at a lonely rural crossroads.
"And the people that take the time to drive this far, want to be here," said Heidi Tull from Grits and Groceries Restaurant.
Co-owner Heidi Tull handles much of the cooking at Grits and Groceries. Her partner and husband Joe Tull bakes the biscuits and whips up the desserts.
This isolated location was a matter of choice.
“Everywhere we went, I passed this building and I said, you know that's my place, I need to be there,” she said. “That's where I need to be.”
“I love the challenge,” said Heidi. “That's, that's my favorite part. The fact that we're actually in the center of the universe, which is the middle of nowhere and that we can still get people to come.”
Not too long ago, Heidi and Joe worked in a big city-- New Orleans.
They decided to return to their Carolina roots to provide a better quality of life for their young son. They brought back some flavors of the Big Easy, but plenty from other places as well.
“We call it eclectic soul food,” said Heidi. “It's comfort food without all the fancy hoopla.”
Heidi and Joe have been back in the Carolinas since 2005 and have built quite a following. The food has gotten a reputation, but what initially catches the attention of most people is that name – Grits and Groceries.
“Most people want to know what it means,” said Heidi. “They want to know where the groceries are. I say, 'in your tummy.' It's an old blues song; 'if i don't love you, eggs ain't poultry, grits ain't groceries and Mona Lisa was a man.' I thought that would be a cute name for this business.”
The local community could not support the restaurant on its own....but the place draws diners from Greenville, Charlotte and Atlanta. At lunch on Saturdays, 300 to 350 people will eat here.
“I cook really fast,” said Heidi. “I have to cook really fast.”
Heidi and Joe could fill a bigger place, and they could most likely be successful in opening a second restaurant somewhere.There seems to be no desire though to go beyond what they have created here.
“We're not looking to go back into a city or expand to a second location,” said Heidi. “We just want to be here and enjoy being here.”