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Why I left Charleston fine dining for fast casual 

Feel Good Food

Jonathan Boncek

John Ondo owned Lana for 11 years before opening Kairos

We have all been there, whether it be on a road trip or just running errands. You don't have time to eat so you walk in to one of those places. You order, you eat, and you're out in 20 minutes. Not long after that you hate yourself for putting that junk in your body.

What started as a consulting job for me has turned into a partnership at Kairos. It was real simple: help develop some recipes and test them out at Lana. The food was similar to the Mediterranean cuisine we had been cooking since we opened. I've always loved how simple and pure Greek food can be. I was also ready for a change. Lana had been open for 11 years and the dynamic in the restaurant industry had changed so much over that period. It was time to get out and try something new and maybe not spend 12 hours in a kitchen. Maybe something a little less stressful. Maybe no more late nights. No more worrying if I have a quart of 25 different things and four quarts of five ingredients.

Location Details Kairos Greek Kitchen
Kairos Greek Kitchen
1100 Bowman Road
Mt. Pleasant, SC
(843) 606-9314
Open daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Greek

I liked the idea of learning a new business model in a different genre of the restaurant industry I had been working in since my late teens. Strangely enough, I had only ever worked in high end bistros or fine dining, so learning the QSR or fast casual concept was fascinating. People generally are eating healthier nowadays and the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world thanks to lots of fresh vegetables, legumes, and small amounts of protein. It's a perfect recipe for a fast casual Greek restaurant.

click to enlarge Kairos' falafel hummus bowl - JONATHAN BONCEK
  • Jonathan Boncek
  • Kairos' falafel hummus bowl

Once I got started with the development process I was hooked. I loved how simple it could be, how quickly it could be done, and how fresh and clean everything tasted. Don't get me wrong, we didn't reinvent the wheel here. We did our research with multiple trips to the D.C. area to look at one model. Trips to Houston and San Francisco to look at other models. We took notes and asked questions. We grabbed menus and tasted and tasted again. We wanted Kairos to be a chef-driven concept. Apart from the pita, we make everything in house. We roast our peppers instead of buying them in a can already roasted. We buy the good yogurt for our tzatziki sauce. We buy our honey locally from Dan Kennerty to use on our frozen yogurt. We cut our fries in house so it might take an extra minute when you order but it's worth it (yes, they are the same fries we served at Lana. You just dip them in tzatziki sauce instead of aioli).

We wanted it to be something that people could feel good about eating and want to eat it again and again. Something craveable. In the almost two months that Kairos has been open, I'm starting to see some of the same faces again and again, which I like. It's different than having a regular at Lana who I'd see maybe twice a week (bar regulars don't count). Now I'm seeing the same people three to four times a week, sometimes twice a day. That tells me that we've done something right. I'm happy with the the direction Kairos is headed and i'm hopeful for other locations in the future. I'm proud to be a part of this and I'm excited to watch it grow.


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