Cecil Chandler is a bona fide foodie who is about to taste a lifelong dream: opening his own restaurant.
The popular WBTW News 13 personality and host of "Cooking With Cecil" is excited about what lies ahead, when Cecil's Italian Grill debuts in Surfside Beach.
It will be housed in the location formerly occupied by Benjamin's Bagel Bakery & Deli at 531 U.S. 17 S. He and his partners, Bill Rempfer and Evan Bofilios, hope to open in April. Rempfer owns DeFalco's Automotive and Towing and Bofilios owns the Golden Egg, a breakfast eatery. Both businesses are also in Surfside Beach.
"I always thought about opening my own restaurant, but I never thought I'd see it come true," Chandler told me last Thursday while we were both serving as judges for the Death by Chocolate event of Girls Scouts of Eastern South Carolina. "I just want to make some money. I'm tired of not having money in my pocket. It's not much money in television, you know."
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I laughed, but I didn't know if Chandler, who has been at the WBTW News 13 for 39 years, was serious or not. He didn't laugh so I think he was.
Anyway, what I do know for certain is that Chandler will stay at the station when he and his partners launch the business.
His wife, Debra, was a wee bit concerned and asked him if he could handle all of those responsibilities.
"I told her, 'Honey it won't be too much,'" he said. "I said, 'If it gets to be too much, I will slow down.'"
The goal is to keep the entree prices between $12 and $15.
"What we want to do is give people a good product at a reasonable price," he said. "It's so many restaurants out there with $25 or $30 entrees. We want to keep our prices down. It will be a fun place where you can bring your kids. We will have a Kid's Night when kids can eat for free. We will have magic shows. It's going to be great."
Chandler plans to graduate to super-duper duties by keeping his television gig and being at the restaurant.
"I'll be doing some cooking, baby," he told me. "I will be there almost every night. I've just got to learn how to make a New York pizza. Everybody wants a New York pizza."
Chandler, who turns 62 March 1, said the folks who have seen him on television throughout the years but have never met him will be able to have fun with him at the restaurant.
"I'm going to be at the door when they come in," he said. "I'm going to say, 'Welcome to Cecil's Italian Grill.' I'm going to go over and talk to them at the table. I'm going to ask them how their food is. I'm going to bring out their food. We won't have hostesses. The three of us will be the hosts."
The menu will include traditional Italian dishes, steaks, burgers and a kid's menu. An ice cream shop featuring Breyer's Ice Cream, called April's Ice Cream will also be a part of the grill. The ice cream shop was named after Bofilios' daughter.
I'm excited for the guys, especially Chandler, because he is one of the sweetest, craziest and kindest folks I have met since moving here in 1993.
I'll keep you posted as Chandler keeps me up on the details.
Carrie's takes a break
Carrie's Restaurant in the Plantersville community of Georgetown County has closed temporarily.
Located at 5561 Exodus Drive, the eatery was founded in 1986 by Carrie Neal.
The restaurant is a favorite of people of all sorts, especially hard-working folks who knew Neal, now 80, would serve up good food that was often better than their mama's home cooking.
Neal and her daughter-in-law, Mary Neal, used to work side by side, running much of the business. The elder Neal retired, but her family, including her son, Richard Neal, kept the business going.
Richard Neal recently earned a position as principal at Carvers Bay High School. His promotion, along with road construction, were among the reasons the family decided to close the business for a while until their hectic lives slowed a little bit and road work is finished in their area.
Carrie's is a favorite of James Clark, executive chef of Waterscapes at the Marina Inn.
Sopraffino Italian Restaurant and Bar opened last Wednesday.
The new eatery is at 670 U.S. 17 Business S. in Surfside Beach. It is owned by Anthony and Mary Scudiero and features traditional Italian dishes.
Prices range from $10 to $22.
Hours are 4 p.m. to close Tuesday through Saturday.