Southern Kafe on 17
Southern Kafe on 17: A Real Taste of the South
Story by Katrice Williams | Photos by Tonya Perry
When traveling down Central Boulevard in Guyton, it is worth stopping by one of the area’s most notable restaurant venues—Southern Kafe on 17—a true diamond in the rough.
Southern Kafe opened its doors eight years ago. Co-owners Tracy and Tamela Mydell wanted to offer the community a real taste of the South; the couple wanted customers to feel that grandmama’s best Sunday home-cooked meals were right within their reach.
Tracy is originally from Rincon, while Tamela is a Guyton native. Cooking has long been Tamela’s passion. However, prior to opening Southern Kafe, Tamela was a career licensed cosmetologist with 30 years of experience. Tracy has played more of a support role in the business due to his full-time career.
Pursuing Her Passion
“It’s pretty much my baby,” Tamela laughs, recalling the turning point in her career when she helped cater a friend’s wedding many years ago and really enjoyed it. She realized she had a knack for it all. “From there, the passion grew.”
Realizing her gift and potential, friends and family encouraged Tamela to open a restaurant of her own. She contemplated the idea for some time before deciding to take the big leap. She initially planned for her new business to be part-time, but that quickly changed.
“Since opening, it has been a full-time job,” she says.
“We open at 6:00 in the morning, and we serve a hearty breakfast everyday—like smothered pork chops and smothered shrimp. We have some of the best sausage gravy with biscuits. We have a home-style lunch. On weekends, we offer seafood. That’s what people are looking for; they want home-cooked meals,” she says.
The Menu and More
Menus are posted daily on the restaurant’s Facebook page, and the menu changes each day of the week. Some fan favorites include smothered shrimp, smothered pork chops, oxtails, homemade crab patties, meatloaf and Mexican cornbread.
“Everybody wants the smothered shrimp. I don’t care if it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, they want smothered shrimp; smothered shrimp goes with everything. We make awesome meatloaf, and our Mexican cornbread is a hit,” Tamela says.
Breakfast menu items include salmon patties, corned beef hash, country ham, smoked sausage, hash brown patties, eggs and grits. Lunch items consist of shrimp or fish po boys, burgers and deli sandwiches, along with a variety of fresh salads. Dinner entrees include turkey wings, fried chicken, ham and ribs.
All meals include a meat dish with two sides, along with peach cobbler or banana pudding. Customers who crave a slice of old-fashioned, moist and delicious layer cake have several tasty options, including: chocolate, red velvet, Oreo-red velvet and pound.
Forty percent of Southern Kafe’s business comes from catering. They cater wedding receptions, graduation banquets and other occasions.
Quality, Quantity and Customers First
The Southern Kafe team prides itself in giving customers their money’s worth—a delicious and hearty meal for a reasonable price. Tamela believes that quantity is nearly as important as quality, so she gives her customers “quantity portions.”
“They get their fill for a price they are happy about. I’ve been to some places where you’re hungry a couple of hours after eating,” she says.
Over the years, Southern Kafe has gained their share of repeat and loyal customers, whether people stopping by for their favorite fried chicken dinner or the committed church crowd coming by for a delectable Sunday meal; Sundays have become one of the restaurant’s busiest days. Throughout the week, customers visit from all around the Lowcountry to have a tantalizing taste of the South.
Tamela feels that providing great customer service is non-negotiable. She wants each customer to have an exceptional experience.
“We want them to have a good experience. We want them to have a good meal with a taste that will bring them back. We strive to hit the mark,” she says.
Tamela knows that none of the restaurant’s success would be possible without her Southern Kafe team, and she appreciates all of their dedication and diligence.
Tamela is thankful for the support of the community, especially during the recent more trying times.
“Local is taking care of local. It makes my heart glad when the community steps up,” she says.
She will never forget the kindness the community showed her business years ago, as she faced challenges when attempting to purchase the restaurant building from the city. Many citizens and businesses advocated for the business and rallied together for the cause.
“God blessed us all along the way. That support helped me and my husband keep pushing forward. People donated tables, chairs and equipment,” she says.
Tamela is also grateful for the support of the Guyton Police Department—she recalls their help with a recent catering need for the hospital. Officers took time out to bag and deliver 400 plated meals to the hospital.
“My story is a testimony to other people. We wouldn’t be able to make it without the support of the community; it’s community love. Everybody works together,” she says.
In addition to running a successful restaurant, Tamela and Tracy enjoy giving back to their community. Over the years, Southern Kafe has contributed meals to the Guyton Police Department, Effingham EMS and other organizations.
The couple is on the executive board for CURE. They also serve on the Guyton Planning and Zoning Board and Effingham County Chamber of Commerce.
Tamela also loves whenever she is able to spend time at her church home—Graceful Gospel—where she serves on the hospitality committee.
“That is my happy place,” she says.
Southern Kafe on 17
308 Central Boulevard, Guyton, GA