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Grits & Groceries
Heidi and Joe Trull treat their devoted customers to delicious Southern foods in their country restaurant near Belton.
Photo by Milton Morris
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Southern tomato pie
The individual tomato pies at Grits & Groceries are packed with farm-fresh local tomatoes and covered with a cheesy topping. Get the recipe below.
Courtesy of Heidi Trull
With a bustling kitchen visible from the dining room, Grits & Groceries feels less like restaurant dining than it does hanging out in Aunt Heidi and Uncle Joe’s kitchen, where they’re always puttering around and chatting, fixin’ up something delicious, and, lucky you, you get a plate of it.
This way-out-of-the-way little restaurant at Saylors Crossroads in Anderson County—stop when you see the giant chicken statue—has hit on a winning combination of farm-fresh meals and kicked-back ambience. And, despite their remote location, they’ve been attracting devoted customers for 11 years.
“People don’t mind a little bit of a drive if they know they’re going to get something worthwhile,” says Joe Trull, who runs Grits & Groceries with fellow chef and wife Heidi. Their recipe for success is simple: “Good-tasting food and making people happy,” he says.
Those who already know and those who have heard rumors gladly make the trek from everywhere between Greenville and Greenwood when they can’t go another day without a tomato pie or Joe’s famous (no, really—they’ve been on TV) fried apple hand pies. People show up with out-of-town guests just to show off this rural treasure.
“We’re just country enough that they can say, ‘Hey, look at the country people,’” Heidi jokes.
The Trulls are also a little bit city, having cooked for years at New Orleans restaurants owned by chef Emeril Lagasse and at Heidi’s own restaurant, Elizabeth’s, in that city for 10 years, where they attracted crowds as regular media darlings.
But when son Tom was about to be born, they wanted to replant somewhere close to their Carolina families.
“When I saw this store, I wrote a check—I didn’t want to look anywhere else,” she says of the century-old country store they found nine miles outside of Belton, Honea Path and Due West. They converted it to their cozy, casual restaurant and have been “gangbuster busy ever since.”
Heidi describes the menu as “eclectic soul food—it’s the grandma pot food of every culture I’ve ever been in.” That translates as globally inspired combinations of “food you can scoop from a pot”—shrimp creole, beef stew, gumbo, and Southern mac and cheese, for example. The menu changes weekly, based on what fresh vegetables are coming in from local farmers and what cuts of meat are on hand from the cows and pigs they raise and butcher themselves. Joe’s in charge of desserts, which often highlight whatever fruits are in season.
You have flat out wasted a trip if you don’t try their country ham balls (deepfried rounds of pimiento cheese and ham covered in crushed potato chips, sitting in a perfect pool of pepper-jelly sauce) or the praline bacon (brown sugar and crushed pecans smothering strips of crispy bacon).
“The thing with all these young chefs is, they’re all trying to elevate Southern food,” Heidi says. “But Southern food is pretty good just the way it is.”
4 ripe tomatoes, sliced
¼ cup salt
1 cup grated hoop cheese
1 cup Duke’s mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 medium onion, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
8 mini piecrusts (or one large)
Slice tomatoes, and cover with ¼ cup salt. Let sit for 1 hour. Rinse well in colander, and pat dry with paper towel. Place piecrusts in pan(s), and lay tomato slices in pie shells. In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour over tomatoes. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes.
Grits & Groceries
2440 Due West Highway, Belton | (864) 296-3316 | gritsandgroceries.com
Hours: Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.