Visit the Places of Georgetown
700 Modern with John Cranston
My husband and I stopped in at Seven Hundred Modern Grill & Bar on Front Street. John Cranston, owner and operator of the restaurant, stood at his usual place at the end of the counter, sipping a cup of coffee. He took a few minutes out of his day to join us for lunch and a chat.
Originally from New Jersey, John has been here in South Carolina for about three years and running his own restaurant for the latter part of his time here. “We opened up Zest further down the street and a couple of months later, it burned down. That was at the end of 2013,” he said of his first restaurant.
Our waitress had come and taken our order. After handing her the menus, I asked. “What about the name of this restaurant? Down there it was Zest, but here it’s Seven Hundred Modern.”
John got up to retrieve a take-out menu. On the back was the explanation of how the name of the restaurant and the new logo came to be. To quote it, “The Seven Hundred Modern Grill & Bar is a symbol for the inspiration of our new restaurant. On September 25, 2013, the seven hundred block of historic Front Street in Georgetown, South Carolina had seven buildings burn to the ground. The stripes in our flag represent the seven buildings that we lost that day. The star represents a member of our family who was taken from us on October 24, 2013, Chef Christopher Kirwin. We look to rebuild the future with you.”
“Where did you get the names for your menu items,” I asked. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised with his answer.
After taking a sip of his coffee, John answered, “We used the different businesses to name our dishes on our menu like, the Colonial Salad for the Colonial Florist, Maritime Chicken Sandwich for the Maritime Museum or the 719 Burger because that was our address when we had Zest, 719 Front Street.”
“That was a pretty good idea,” I stated. Back to the sign, I asked, “Who made the sign?”
“He’s a local designer,” John answered, “His name is Russ Bratcher. We also used local help when we built this place after Zest burnt down.”
“And your staff …” I asked, leaving the question open.
“We have a lot of loyal staff here. They’ve been with us since the very beginning.” John named a few: “Melanie, Louie, Charlie, and Leslie, who is also our new sushi chef.”
The restaurant has a nice atmosphere and although they do serve alcohol, including mixed drinks, they
do not present themselves as a local bar hang-out. Instead, they’re a very nice and well-organized food industry. It’s certainly one of my favorite places to eat.
I love their salads and their sweet potato fries. They give quite a hearty helping of them and they are very delicious. Of all that I’ve tried from this restaurant, I can say there wasn’t anything I did not like. The staff is always friendly and wonderful to be around. They go out of their way to make the customer feel comfortable so as to enjoy their dining experience. If that isn’t enough, John’s wife, Pia, is a co-owner of the burger place down the street. Now that I know she’s there, I’m definitely going to have to stop in and say hello to her. I did wonder where she had ventured.
As our waitress returned with our order, we finished our conversation. I had ordered the Spicy Crab roll and an order of sweet potato fries while my husband had the grilled fish sandwich with mixed fries. It was lip-smacking good, too.
On a separate note: Seven Hundred Modern is the only place in Georgetown where you can get good sushi. For those who don’t know, Sushi means “sour rice,” and used for rice rolls while Sashimi means “raw fish.” In America, they cannot serve authentic raw fish like what is served on the Orient so your sashimi is usually pan seared in order to meet the FDA requirements. Now that we all know that, be sure to stop in and order some delicious sushi or sashimi.
The restaurant hours are Sunday thru Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturdays they open 11 a.m. to 10 at night. Happy hour is from 4-7 Sunday thru Thursday (this is my favorite time because some of the sushi is half off).
Additionally, John has local musicians lined up for a bit of musical entertainment on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
The Strand Theater
I was so excited to interview Foy Ford at the Strand Theater, home of the Swamp Fox Players. Foy has been the theater manager for eleven years. Thanks to Penny Thomas Barbour and Jamie Sanderson, I was able to sit down and talk to her about this historical building in Georgetown.
Historically speaking, Wilson B Arnholter built and introduced the theater as the Peerless to a packed house on June 24, 1914, and thereafter, closed the place down. When another theater in Georgetown, the Princess Theater, burned down in 1916, Wilson B. Arnholter reopened his building as the Princess Theatre. History shows the Abram Brothers named it once again as the Peerless in 1929. The building was later renamed the Strand Theater. In 1964, the theater reopened under new management and, unlike the movies and plays performed at this time; the theater only showed films as a cinema in the past.
Foy explained as she welcomed us inside, “When the theater reopened as the Strand Theater it just down the street from the Palace Theater which was still in operation at the time.”
“Where at down the street,” I asked Foy as we seated ourselves in one of the chairs several rows from the stage.
“The Palace Theater used to be where First Citizen’s Bank is at now,” she answered (The Palace Theater was built in 1936). Our building was first known as the Strand Theater when it reopened in October of 1941 on (710) Front Street.”
“How long have the Swamp Fox Players been here?”
“They’re an acting group that has been here since the 80’s. This is where they perform four shows a year. Each show runs for about three weeks,” Foy explained. “The actors often help build their sets and help with costumes. They generally work together in other areas besides just acting.”
The theater chairs have little tables that you may pull up and out to make a desk and, suffice to say, if I didn’t know I needed to go on a diet before going inside, I sure know it now. I slid the table back into place as I asked, “What do you show in-between the plays?”
My son spoke up, “Don’t you show movies here?”
Foy nodded her head in agreement. “Yes, we sure do. We show more of Art House Films than we do of pop culture films.”
They recently had The Legend of Bagger Vance on the marquee (which is the original marquee) and currently, Still Alice will be showing as the acting group prepares for their next performance of Bye, Bye Birdie.
As we sat in the theater and looked around, I decided to ask the all-important-question “Is the theater haunted?”
With a laugh, Foy answered, “Yes it is. We do have one ghost.”
“Tell me about the ghost,” I asked getting more excited.
“She likes to move things around a lot. The ghost used to hide a cane my daughter liked to use. Every day we’d come in and it would be some place different that it had no business being in. We’d find it all over the theater. Sometimes the ghost likes to play with the lights or the sounds and she’s even been known to get a little snippy.”
As I wrote, I glanced up and said, “You refer to the ghost as a she; have you seen her?”
“No, I haven’t seen her but it just feels like a she. Several people have mentioned they feel her,” she explained with another laugh. “There was an incident, I can’t remember what it was exactly but I remember when we came in one day, all of the screws from the light plates were removed and all laying on the table; the screws too. It was as if someone had unscrewed them with a screwdriver. I told the crew, I don’t know who did what to make her mad but all of you apologize to her.”
With a nod she answers, “Yes they did. There was another incident where we were all meeting across the street after rehearsal. One of the actresses stayed behind to take off her makeup. She was here alone, by herself.
Apparently, while she was in the back taking off her makeup, she could hear the ghost upstairs dragging something across the floor above her. She quickly left the building and came across the street to tell us what happened. The actress said she would never be here alone again.”
While there talking to Foy, I wanted to do a short video of the Strand Theater for my YouTube channel, Cranky’s World (also found as Cranky Old Hag), she shared a bit of trivia knowledge with us. “The double masks at the top, above the marquee, are also original. They’ve never been replaced or removed.”
While looking up the Strand Theater on the internet, I searched for the pictures and one thing is for sure, Foy Ford is right. In every picture, not only is the marquee the same, but just above it, you can see the double masks, as well.
Thank you Foy for allowing me to come inside and talking to me about this beautifully magnificent place called, the Strand Theater.
Thomas’ Café, noted to be the oldest eatery in Georgetown, dates back to the early 1900’s. The old-fashioned diner sits near the clock tower on Front Street in the historical district and currently is owned by Earnest Brunson.
While Beth Waniner was out on sick leave, Ashley Crawford and Kelly Crosby, two more of the café’s staff members, and I were talking about how old it was. I remember when the previous owner had hung a picture on the wall that read, “Est 1902.” However, Kelly said she had spoken with Mr. Thomas (the original owner’s son) awhile back and he said the restaurant had been established in the 1920’s.
Nonetheless, once you come through the door, you’ve almost walked through a portal of time that has long since gone. I brought my brother in during one of his visits to Georgetown and explained to him, “It’s like a scene right out of the movie, Fried Green Tomatoes, with Jessica Tangy and Kathy Bates. I swear; the place hasn’t aged in over 100 years.”
“The booths are all still original,” Ashely said motioning to the wooden booths that have been there since Thomas Café’ first opened their doors. I nodded as I remembered they used to have cushions on the bench. Ashely agreed. “They sure did. They were in such bad shape though. I took them home and washed them and they all but fell apart.”
Kelly spoke up and added, “Earnest still tries to follow the same menu from when he bought the place which is almost the same menu the original owners made up. Of course, one or two things have changed or been taken off but basically, it’s the same menu.”
“I noticed the gumbo and the jambalaya are not there anymore,” I stated as I wrote some notes.
“That’s because Earnest would make up a big batch of it and then have to throw most of it out at the end of the day,” Ashley explained.
“What is the bestselling thing on the menu?” I asked.
“Well, Earnest’s number one concern above all is customer satisfaction so he kept a lot of the recipes like the homemade crab cake sandwich; that’s a top seller. The shrimp and grits and fried green tomatoes are another.”
“The lunch menu,” Kelly added. “We do a daily special every day. Monday we always have fried chicken and on Thursdays, we have turkey and dressing.”
Nodding in agreement, Ashley added, “And Fridays are always fried flounder. That’s a big hit with the customers.”
I asked about an interesting story either of them could share. Both of them looked at one another and shrugged. “Is it haunted?” I asked. “Maybe we could do another story for Halloween.”
Ashely and Kelly offered a laugh and then both denied, “No, it’s not haunted. There are no ghosts here that we’re aware of and Beth and I have been here seven years,” said Kelly.
“I’ve been here eight.”
I wrote some more notes and then asked, “So nothing exciting ever happens here? What about the lawyer’s table?” I was referring to the back table. All of the locals know, in the morning time, that is where all the lawyers and judges sit.
“They still meet there,” Ashly answered with a shrug and then pointed at the front table by the large restaurant window where costumer’s can always find the daily special menu as they pass by. “If their table is occupied, they will sometimes move up here.”
“The car crash,” Kelly said. “Remember two or three years ago, the car that drove through the window?”
“Was anyone hurt?”
Both women denied anyone was hurt in the car accident. “The table was full of tourists, too, no locals,” Ashley said of the accident. “We had to close for the rest of the day, but Earnest was back up the next.”
As we brought an end to our meeting, I asked about Beth who had some surgery done. I was told she would be back (the following week) hopping around. “She’s going crazy sitting at home,” Ashely said of her co-worker’s convalescent period.
While I sit and write about one of my favorite eateries, I think about many of the locals who come here for breakfast and lunch; Phil Brady, Penny Thomas Barbour, Eliza Hilliard and let’s not forget myself. This is truly a place taken out of time. I would say Thomas’ Café is one of the few places in Georgetown that maintains their nostalgia.
Thomas’ Café is opened Monday through Saturday. They open at 7:00 am and close at 2:00 pm with the exception of Saturday. They close at 12:00 (noon) on Saturdays and serve only breakfast. Whether it is homemade southern-style cooking you want or you just want to stop in for a cold glass of sweet tea and visit the past, Thomas’ Café is the place to be.