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SoCo serves elevated comfort food in a historic Greenville home


A unique and exciting new addition to the Greenville restaurant scene is opening this week in a converted historic home.

SoCo -- short for "Southern Comfort" -- begins serving the public a creative seasonal tasting menu and signature cocktails Friday, Aug. 28 in the 1895 Jones Lee House, which was moved last year to 304 S. Greene St.

The restaurant has been a passion project for Executive Chef Jeremy Law (who most recently served as Sous Chef to Vivian Howard of Kinston's Chef and the Farmer) and his wife, general manager/"wine-pouring-hostess with the mostest" Kimberly Kulers. The staff includes three others in the kitchen, a bartender and two servers.

Their goal is to present a "Southern food experience with global sensibilities."

The restaurant's tasting menu -- $50 per person -- allows diners to pick an option from four courses to create their personal meals.

SoCo's introductory menu features these dishes:

First

Roasted Beets with nectarine, whipped marscapone, cinnamon and pecans;

or

Mixed Green Salad with roasted tomatoes, bacon, creamy peppercorn dressing and crispy onion.

Second

Crispy Pork Belly with banana, kimchi, peanut and honey;

or

Fried Chicken with masala spices, korma potato salad, cashews and yogurt.

Third

Seared Diver Scallops with corn crema, salsa verde, toasted almonds and pepitas;

or

Marinated Skirt Steak with grilled squash and greens, fresh tomato and pickled onion;

or

Cavatelli Pasta with mushroom cream, seared shiitakes and criminis, edamame and walnuts.

Final

Key Lime Pie with brown sugar cookie crust and coconut whip cream;

or

Chocolate Pot De Creme with orange creme fraiche and sugared walnuts.

There also are two special entrees for those who don't wish to do the tasting: a 12-ounce BBQ'd Rib-eye with buttery mashers, caramelized onions and pan jus ($42); and Seared NC Fish with Tahini-roasted carrots, miso broth, fennel and orange ($34).

Signature cocktails include:

* Jonesly Spritz (sparkling wine, strawberry, Por Mi Amante and lemon peel);

* Greene Street Sour (gin, Creme de Basilic, lemon, egg white, basil); and

* Lafitte (Kill Devil White Rum, grapefruit, mango, lime and cinnamon).

A selection of wines are available by the glass or bottle. Non-alcoholic beverages include iced tea and French Press coffee with beans roasted by Lanoca in Farmville.

SoCo is located in a two-story wood-frame Eastlake Victorian former home with gables and Queen Anne-style decorative elements.

The new exterior color scheme is light blue with white trim and a red metal roof.

There are two parlor-style dining rooms and a separate room with a bar lit by crystal chandeliers inside the renovated house. There's also 20 patio seats outside.

A bit of serendipity and a lot of work went into the new restaurant, which Law and Kulers had established in 2010 on an 11-acre farm outside Wilson.

SoCo owners Jeremy Law and Kimberly Kulers

"We were looking to move our restaurant to Greenville, but nothing we looked at fit," Kulers said in an email. "We weren’t sure how we could beat the charm and intimacy the renovated tobacco barn on our Wilson farm provided for diners.

"We met (Greenville businessman and property owner) Don Edwards and looked at many properties. Don had recently been tasked with saving the Jones Lee House and at the end of our tour he offered it up as an option for our next space.

"Having lived in Greenville, we had known the house for years but had no idea it would one day be ours. (I graduated from ECU in 2000), " Kulers said.

The house originally was located on Evans Street across from the Greenville Museum of Art -- and it needed to be relocated.

"There were soooo many obstacles to overcome to get the house safely moved and re-homed to an appropriate lot," Kulers said. "It was both exhilarating and nerve-racking. A house is not meant to be moved, but it was the only way to save it. The lot (on Greene Street beside The Fleming House/Greenville Pitt County Chamber of Commerce) with the huge magnolias in the back was just the perfect spot for this special house.

"We worked for a year on restorations and the kitchen addition, and of course we were slowed down by the pandemic." Kulers said. "But I have to say everyone in Greenville has been super supportive and helpful in getting this project complete."

The restaurant's website notes that the couple kept as much of the original house as possible -- siding, railing, windows, wainscoting, floors, and doors. "What was missing or in need of repair was minimally altered in a style we felt matched the home."

"We are hesitant about opening during the pandemic but we are excited to share the place with everyone. We are following the guidelines and marching forward!"

What does Kulers hope diners experience when they visit SoCo?

"We hope they experience love," she said. "We built a place and assembled a team who obsess over food and guests' experience."

SoCo will be open from 5-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and -- beginning next week, also on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5-9 p.m. Kulers said Sunday brunch will be added in a few weeks.

Reservations can be made at https://www.soconc.com/reservations.html. Reservations are required for inside table dining. Outside seating and bar seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, visit the website.

📷: SoCo

Jane Welborn Hudson, a native of Greenville, wrote The Daily Reflector's Hot Dish restaurant column for 12 years and the Greensboro News & Record's Short Orders restaurant column for 8 years. Email her at jane@beetheremedia.com.

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