Brothers John, 38, and Ben Williams, 35, have been working on their restaurant for four years, but they've been dreaming about it much longer than that.
"We had always had an idea to open a place together," says John Williams. "It just took longer than expected, almost 12 years."
Initially they were looking for a space downtown, but they ended up striking a deal with Southeastern Development on Johns Island for a building at 3005 Maybank Highway. "Basically, we've been looking for a freestanding building for a number of years," says Williams. "But we couldn't find the right fit and then this opportunity came along."
The new construction already was planned, but the brothers signed on early enough to be able to make the restaurant exactly what they wanted. Of course, as these things go, construction has been been beset by zoning and permitting issues. "Delays, delays, delays," says Williams, who most recently had to wrangle with an electrical engineer to ensure they would have what they needed when the restaurant opened.
In February, Williams left his job as general manager at Rue de Jean, where he's been for 12 years, to manage the construction process full time. Ben remains working in the kitchen at Trattoria Lucca until the restaurant gets closer to opening. And that probably won't be until late summer or early fall.
"We're really excited to be there," says Williams. "We're literally halfway between Fat Hen and Wild Olive."
The restaurant will be called The Royal Tern, after the coastal bird, and will focus on local seafood with some steaks and chicken options. "Not everyone loves seafood and we don't want to alienate anybody," he says. "We haven't completely hammered down what the menu is going to be."
What it won't be is Lowcountry cuisine, since that's been done so much. Williams says it will be more eclectic and will focus on the kitchen's wood-fired grill. They will have raw seafood options but not a raw bar per se. They also will have sandwiches and other lower price point options so people feel comfortable stopping in and sitting at the bar for a beer and a bite.
The goal, he says, is for the open concept restaurant to feel welcoming to everyone in the neighborhood. There will be an open kitchen, a big bar with 15 seats and additional high-tops. The dining room will have banquettes along the walls with several areas for large parties. There's also a large screened-in porch.
Williams says they are excited to be a part of the growing dining scene on Johns Island where places like Fat Hen, Wild Olive, Southern General, Seanachai and Tattooed Moose have thrived.