Kenyatta McNeil

Kenyatta McNeil hands out orders at Nana's Seafood and Soul on Thursday Jan. 11, 2018. Grace Beahm Alford/ Staff

When Nana’s Seafood & Soul opened on the Westside in 2001, chewies were among the restaurant’s biggest draws. So owner Kenyatta McNeil is again trying a sweets strategy at Nana’s Uptown, scheduled to open later this year.

Nana’s Uptown will double as Nana’s Cheesecake and Dessert Empire, serving an array of different cheesecakes.

“Everyone usually goes to The Cheesecake Factory to get cheesecakes,” McNeil says, pointing out that’s not an option in the Charleston area. “Even though we have little dessert bars, nobody really specializes in cheesecake.”

McNeil admits he isn’t much of a baker. He plans to source his cheesecakes, including varieties such as strawberry crunch and praline vanilla bean, from local pastry chefs. The cakes will be sold by the slice but customers will be able to place special orders for whole cheesecakes.

Unlike the original Nana’s, the restaurant at 5117 Dorchester Road won’t offer dining room seating or a soul food menu. Nana’s Uptown/Cheesecake and Dessert Empire will focus on seafood since McNeil’s mother, Carolyn, will continue to focus on the soul food dishes at their Line Street location. But the new restaurant will sell the chewies that helped establish Nana’s as a local favorite.

As Charleston has swelled with transplants from other states, the brown sugar bar has become increasingly hard to find in retail settings. But McNeil guarantees a “straight-up Charleston chewie.”

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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