Georgia On My Mind

This weekend gets back to the roots of the Culinary-Passport, adding a new stamp for the Republic of Georgia. A trip months in the making. I’ve planned and unplanned a visit to Keipi Restaurant in Greenville, SC several times for one reason or another.

Let me take a step back and explain why I was willing to make the 1 hour drive to try this place out. My friend Andy took a trip to the Republic of Georgia and he posted photos, as one does. One photo though caught my attention even more than the spectacular church he visited. It was this marvelous looking dish called khachapuri. There in all its glory was a bread bowl shaped like a canoe, or maybe a fat Viking longship and it was filled with cheese and an egg. I knew I would have one someday even if I had to try to make it myself.

Ok I wasn’t all that smitten with the cheese filled bread boat that I actually tried to make it myself but I knew I would absolutely jump at the chance to have one. Well the bride and progeny of said friend (waves to Melanie and Ian) wound up posting photos from Keipi Restaurant, a Georgian eatery in Greenville, SC. Sure enough they have khachapuri. That could only be a sign I’d have to go. So eventually I did.

It was a nice drive on a mild summer day and I was able to avoid the city of Greenville getting to Hampton Station where the restaurant is. Hampton Station is a cool little spot with a micro-brewery, meadery, coffee roaster, a couple of other restaurants, boutiques, pottery store that has classes and more. I’m definitely going back to see what’s at the meadery. Now to the main attraction.

I was customer number 1 when Keipi opened. The young lady working the front of the house was helpful when I told her I came for the khachapuri. They have several different variants of the standard on the menu. Since they had a flight of 3 “minis” I decided that was the ticket for me. I got the traditional as the benchmark, asked her what her favorite was (yes, she was cute and that might have influenced my decision) and she said the lamb and pomegranate. That was two and the bacon and brie as a top seller rounded out my trio. I got an Austrian beer, Steigl Radler Grapefruit, to go with it.

The grapefruit radler was a refreshing, 2% ABV beer with real juice added. I expected it to cut the richness of the cheese, which it did. The bay door was open to the beautiful day outside and a breeze was blowing, as was the fan on the floor next to my table. It was quite pleasant.

I also had a big old bottle of chilled water to sip from so I stayed hydrated while I waited. When my food was delivered I was a bit shocked at the size of the “minis”. These bad boys were at least 50% larger than I expected them to be and I knew I was going to be taking some home.

Of course I started with the traditional. That wonderfully cooked bread with the toasty cheese and runny egg was great. I savored every bite. Halfway through I knew I would be taking the other two home with me for a mid-afternoon snack and dinner.

I did at least try the lamb and pomegranate so I could let the server know if she steered me right or not. She did. I had it for the mid-afternoon snack after mowing the grass. It was freaking delicious. The lamb was tender and flavorful and the pomegranate seeds added that little burst of tart and sweet when I bit them. The bacon and brie was dinner. It’s bacon, it’s brie, on top of more cheese and (plot twist) a light layer of fig jam all contained in a bread bateau. Of course it was fabulous, even reheated.

I have to say that was quite worth the trip even if Google maps tried to have me visit somebodies lake house 20 minutes off the route I should have been on when I came home.

Must thank the McGehee clan for alerting me to the existence of khachapuri and then doing the legwork of finding the restaurant.

And staying old school here is the Tell Me More page.