#8216;Chef#039; of the day

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 31, 2007

It's a Tuesday morning downtown in the Camellia City. But this little southern town is far from sleepy - at least not in one of its newest businesses.

&#8220Hello, how are you? Welcome to The Chef's Table,” Proprietor Jan Newton says with a smile as she greets guests arriving at her E. Commerce St. restaurant.

Weathered brick walls and terracotta tiled floors, combine with rich, warm red tones and deep greens to welcome visitors into a rustic Mediterranean ambiance.

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The restaurant also offers a &#8220room with a view” – scenic views of some of downtown Greenville's historic sites.

For lunch, diners can choose a traditional southern &#8220meat and three,” served cafeteria style, or pick from a variety of deli items.

These include reuben, shrimp po-boy and barbecue pork sandwiches;

black and blue steak salad and grilled salmon salad, to name just a few options.

&#8220(For our buffet) we generally offer two meats - almost always fried chicken as one - and a variety of side dishes, such as mac and cheese, turnips, creamed potatoes and more,” Newton says.

Desserts such as banana pudding and cake are offered, along with an array of goodies in the bakery case - cookies, cinnamon rolls, fruit-filled muffins and glazed doughnuts.

The Chef's Table opens at 6 a.m. each weekday to offer early birds a breakfast bar &#8220with all the good southern breakfast foods.”

In limited operation currently is the restaurant's Tiki Hut, where specialty coffees, milkshakes, soft-serve ice cream and more will be offered.

Since opening just over a week ago, business has been brisk, Newton says.

&#8220Of course, I had pre-opening nerves, but that first day went really well. We had a good crowd and the food got rave reviews.”

Don't be surprised to see the owner bussing tables, re-filling iced tea or cooking a dish, either. She's a &#8220hands-on” restaurateur.

&#8220This has been my dream for more than 20 years. I loved being a stay-at-home mom, but once the empty nest syndrome settled in, I needed something else,” Newton says.

&#8220And I've always wanted a restaurant of my own.”

After looking at numerous buildings around town and &#8220taking a few detours,” Newton settled on the Commerce St. location.

Built in 1958, the building has housed an A & P Grocery, Jiffy-Mart, a mom-and-pop grocery and Greenville Appliance along the way.

&#8220I love this location. People can look out at these beautiful old houses, the park, the church - even our city hall is quite lovely with its Colonial Revival styling,” Newton enthuses.

The restaurateur has many more plans for her building.

&#8220We will be opening our steak house in the rear later this year, probably in the summer,” Newton says. The steakhouse will be open in the evenings, offering an elegant, fine dining experience to its customers.

Her ultimate goal, Newton says, is to be open seven days a week, including Sunday &#8220dinner” (lunch) each weekend.

Currently, the business is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Starting a restaurant has been one big learning experience, Newton says.

&#8220We are taking it a little bit at a time, adding things, tweaking things. So far we are very pleased with how things are going. We have a great staff and great cooks.”

The business owner says she hopes her new venture will become &#8220a gathering place for the community.”

&#8220I have had such fun getting to know people who have always been here in Greenville, yet I'd never met them. And it's great getting re-acquainted with those I haven't seen in a while.”

It's fun to meet some out-of-town (make that way-out-of-town) customers, too.

&#8220On our second day of operation, I was talking to some customers who were from London, England,” Newton says.

&#8220They were over here on vacation and instead of visiting big cities, they chose to go on a small town tour. They were headed from Oxford, Miss. to Pensacola, got off at our exit and just roamed around and found us,” Newton says.

&#8220They are going to put in a good word for us over in London,” she added with a smile.

For more information, call The Chef's Table at 371-CHEF (2433).