Restaurateur Karalee Nielsen took a year off from creating eateries, but in 2013, she's back with two new places for the Lowcountry. Eater hinted about one spot and Post and Courier confirmed the second, but fans of her previous work with Revolutionary Eating Ventures wanted more details.
The first to hit Charleston will be Lee Lee's Hot Kitchen. Nielsen will bring in her mentor/friend Lily Lei, from Seattle, to help with the project. The two women worked together while Nielsen was in college, and she is excited to collaborate on a new restaurant. Lei ran kitchens in Salt Lake City and Washington and will bring in staff from the West coast to help run the back of house in the Holy City. Nielsen calls it an honor to work with her.
"I miss Chinese food—it's one of my favorite passions," Nielsen told us. Once she found the spot at 218 President St., she knew what she wanted to do with it. "I was so excited and the space was really the impetus for it. Now I have a space I feel comfortable putting a Chinese restaurant."
The second eatery in the works for above the Crosstown is The Park Café. This will go into the old Granville's address at 730 Rutledge Ave. The restaurant will be a breakfast, lunch and dinner place, with brunch on weekends. Nielsen referenced that chef Robert Carter's Rutledge Cab Co., up the street from her setting, has shown that the neighborhood can support additional businesses.
Nielsen thinks that The Park Café will be the type of location people will want to visit more than once a week, because of the reasonable price point and the high quality. Inspired by neighborhood restaurants in other cities, she wanted to bring a place like Café Gitane in New York to Charleston. Patrons should feel compelled to grab a glass of wine and coffee any time of the day. Nielsen didn't want to pigeonhole the locale into one category, other than an easy place to go while in the area. She wants people to enjoy Hampton Park, as well, by grabbing a sandwich or salad from her establishment and visiting the outdoor space close to the restaurant. Currently, there is not a chef lined up right for the café . She's actively looking for staff for both establishments.
Lee Lee's Hot Kitchen is set to open on December 19 and The Park Café should follow shortly after.
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