By Becky Billingsley
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, Conway – Once in a joyous while a new restaurant has all the makings of a success story, and such is the case with Dilly Beans in Conway, where chef/proprietor Kim Hardee is doing everything right.
For 15 years Hardee catered special events throughout the Grand Strand area from a sublet commercial kitchen in Loris. Her special style of “Country Come to Town” dishes – they’re simple and southern with mouth-watering modern tweaks – has long made her a favorite choice among local brides.
“Most of my customers are in Myrtle Beach,” Hardee explained during a brief lull in her lunch rush. “I wanted to be closer than Loris. Then I came to lunch here in Conway at Rivertown Bistro, and I said, ‘Conway’s got it going on.’ I love it here.”
The gregarious chef who loves to laugh decided Conway would be the perfect spot for an idea she’d been percolating: to have a lunch-only restaurant showcasing her food and attract more catering customers. Soon she found a space at 219 Laurel St. with the rustic ambiance perfect for her style.
“It’s stuff I love to eat,” Hardee said. “If you’ve got butter, you’re cooking with gas. I use heavy whipping cream, eggs. And everything’s made fresh every day. If it gets busy, it runs out,” she said with a shrug.
Dilly Beans has two long and narrow dining rooms with vintage brick walls. Colonial-style wood chairs and caramel-colored wood tables are in the main dining room, while the tables in the side room, which is even narrower, are brightly painted industrial wire spools. The ceiling is corrugated tin.
Muted primary color accents are used judiciously, and for-sale works from local artists span several mediums and hues. In the narrower room, a piece of brown twine along one wall has wood clothespins grasping tempting photos of Hardee’s catering platters interspersed with children’s crayon drawings.
Tone-setting details are pleasantly evident in service ware. Tables are set with menus affixed to Kraft brown clipboards topped with silverware rolled in sturdy white paper napkins. Clear vases hold lentils and other small beans holding in place flowers, tall grasses and gone-to-seed flora.
A nice touch in the ladies’ room is smooth river stones in the sink.
Cold beverages are served in Mason jars accompanied by a small clear glass vase containing jaunty pink polka-dotted paper straws. My entrée was served in a silver pie tin on a gold plastic charger.
Service is as pleasurable as the surroundings via waitress Brandi Stephens. She definitely has the knack for making anyone feel at home and is eager to explain the intricacies of each dish.
Stephens has an easy sell with choices like starters ($5-$7) such as Pimento Cheese with smoked gouda and bacon served with crudités and bread, Vidalia Onion Dip, Chicken Pecan Spread, Chicken Cilantro Quesadilla and Stuffed Portabello where the mushroom is marinated in balsamic vinaigrette and filled with red and yellow Bell peppers, onion, feta cheese and bacon (or without bacon, for vegetarians).
I tried the Pimento Cheese and took most of it home, and I am ashamed to admit I did not save one bite for my husband. I couldn’t resist its smoky allure.
There’s a Soup du Jour for $3.50 that comes with bread (and breads, including warm little croissants, come with fresh strawberry butter made with real strawberries). The No Name Salad ($8) has a spring mix, carrots, Craisins, cucumbers, Roma tomatoes, corn, sweet pecans and feta; while The Trio Salad ($8) features Chicken Salad, Shrimp Salad and Orzo Salad.
Sandwiches and Quiche of the Day ($6-$8) come with a side dish: a few choices are London Broil Sandwich with roasted red peppers, onions, lettuce, mayo and horseradish cheese; Grilled Pimento Cheese; and Shrimp or Chicken salads. Side dishes are Baked Macaroni and Cheese (I saw a fresh pan bubbling away in the oven), collard greens, mashed potatoes and gravy, squash/zucchini casserole, cold or warm orzo salad with grilled vegetables, potato salad and cheese grits.
A $7 Veggie Plate allows for four sides dishes of the customer’s choosing.
Five hearty entrees are $8-$8.50: Shrimp and Grits with kielbasa and gouda; Spicy Stir Fry with chicken or shrimp; Shrimp or Chicken Crepe; and Open Face Pork Tenderloin Sandwich. I had the pork, which was a thick slice of soft white bread topped with mashed potatoes, rich honey-brown gravy and a sprig of rosemary, with a skewer of juicy pork tenderloin medallions. It was completely wonderful, and the portion was large enough for my lunch and my husband’s supper.
Each plate comes with a Deviled Egg topped by a Dilly Bean, which is a pickled green bean flavored with sweet peppers.
That leaves desserts ($4-$6), which include Hardee’s special made-to-order Fruit Crepe filled with banana, strawberry and kiwi slices sautéed in Chambord and heavy cream, and topped with chocolate sauce; and Rivertown Mud, which is chocolate cake studded with marshmallows,
pecans and more chocolate.
Terry Hardee, Kim Hardee’s mother, bakes the cakes.
There is also a dessert of the day. When I visited it was two varieties of Slam the Door Cake, where when the cakes rise to a certain level, Hardee opens the oven door and slams it shut, so the cake falls and bakes to a scrumptious consistency with a gooey middle and crispy/crusty edges.
My lunch of a soda, Pimento Cheese, Pork Tenderloin and two pieces of cake to take home came to 20 bucks. It was a wonderful experience from beginning to end, and I can’t wait to go back.
Dilly Beans, at 219 Laurel St. in historic downtown Conway, is open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Hardee will open at any time for private parties of 15 or more. The number is (843) 488-2120.