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From Fine Dining to Food Truck: How Semilla Started

Charleston’s changing restaurant scene

Erin Perkins is the editor of Eater Carolinas, covering the food and restaurant scene across North and South Carolina.

In 2014, siblings Jill Schenzel and Macready Downer announced their intention to renovate an abandoned property at 223 St. Philip St. into their dream restaurant named Seed. They told the City Paper that the concept would be an intimate counter service restaurant to highlight Downer's cooking. At the time of the article, they were awaiting approval on changes to the building. Fast forward to 2016 and now the project has morphed from fine dining to Mexican street food. Schenzel and Downer were forced to abandon Seed and are moving forward with food truck Semilla.

The duo leased the St. Philip St. space from local restaurateur John Adamson. Schenzel says that Adamson went radio silent after working two years on the project. She says that they tried to communicate with him but eventually had to get lawyers involved, and they settled out of court to recoup costs. Adamson writes to Eater, “the decision had a lot to do with the extremely precarious restaurant environment in our city at the moment.”

Schenzel couldn’t believe that after all the work put into the space that Adamson stalled. “I don’t people to think we ran out of money or something happened on our end,” she says, “We did all our homework and had a five year plan. We didn’t know anything was wrong until John came to us and said he couldn’t do the upfit anymore.”

Schenzel says that her and Downer looked for a new space, but they were continually priced out. The siblings finally realized that they had to change the plan — enter food truck Semilla. The mobility allows them to get a concept off the ground quickly and save money for an address in the future. Downer was interested in Mexican street food, so they did the research, perfected a tortilla recipe with fresh masa, and will give Charleston the first taste of Semilla this evening with a pop-up at cocktail bar Proof, starting at 7:00 p.m.

Menu for Proof Pop-Up

Semilla will officially launch in 2017 with late night availability on Upper King and other spots around the Lowcountry.