Valli Finney is serving up a blend of fresh culinary flavors from her travels as a journalist and Air Force mechanic.
"This has been a dream of mine for 30 plus years," said Finney, who opened Valli's Country Garden Café on Sept. 16. It is located at 11215 Hwy. 78, about midway between Williston and Elko.
Freshness is at the forefront of the restaurant, including fresh produce, homemade pasta and baked goods. "I wanted to offer people something other than canned, frozen food," said Finney, who plans to plant a garden beside the restaurant. "I want to keep the quality up."
Finney's creations are inspired by her experiences, such as when she worked at a German restaurant in Tulsa, Okla., and Mexican restaurant in New Mexico. She also learned Cuban cooking techniques when she lived in Florida.
Breakfast is served Monday thru Saturday. It includes staples like country ham, eggs, pancakes, grits, omelets, sausage, bacon and biscuits.
While she offers various specials, her lunch menu always includes burgers, such as the Blue Devil burger, and pork skins she cooks to order. She also offers collards and some type of bean.
For those with a sweet tooth, Finney bakes a variety of desserts, including banana pudding fudge, key lime pie, and peanut butter balls. She also has sweets for those with special dietary needs, such as gluten free peanut butter cookies, vegan cakes, and diabetic cookies and cupcakes. "People can't tell the difference," she said.
Finney has lived in many places, but it's always been important to her to sit down and eat with her family at the dinner table. "It doesn't matter what time it is, we all sit down and eat together," said Finney, who worked in the media and public relations field for 25 years. It's a tradition that began during her childhood growing up in Oklahoma and has continued with her own family.
She moved to South Carolina two years ago from Florida because she and her husband, David, wanted a better place to raise their youngest child, Matthew John. They live at the Aiken State Park where David is the park ranger. The couple also has three adult children between them who live in other states.
Finney, who makes her own BBQ sauce, hopes to eventually use the pit room in the back for things like beef brisket.
With Finney and her husband being military veterans, she offers discounts to first responders and members of the military. David is also a retired cop. She also has a surprise for those who can tell her what the brightest orange in the world is.
The restaurant is open Monday thru Friday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Limited delivery is available to businesses who call by 10 a.m.
Contact Finney at (803) 383-6250 or visit the restaurant's Facebook page.
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