441 Public Kitchen & Bar: Renewal and Reconstruction

Kenneth Lee

On the corner of 441 South Main Street, Seni Alabi can be found managing the reconstruction of his latest restaurant, 441 Public Kitchen and Bar. Carefully overseeing the equipment and supplies necessary to successfully run his upcoming and highly anticipated business, Alabi stands tall. In order to please and satisfy his future customers, Alabi has stayed focused on the future, refusing to be discouraged about the burning of his previous restaurant last year.

Debuting in 2013 to a receptive community on a foggy January morning, Alabi’s previous restaurant, South & Vine Public House, successfully impressed its patrons, and continued to amaze them long after its initial opening. That is until a horrible, vicious fire emerged and destroyed the building, leaving Alabi heartbroken and the community shaken.

An electrical fire emerged from the attic on August 26, 2014, quickly burning everything inside the building. 

“We ran service that day and locked up as usual. Shortly after I was home, I got a phone call from a chef in a neighboring restaurant downtown that there was smoke pouring out of the building. I ran back to the restaurant with my wife to see that everything we worked for in the past two years going up in smoke. It was pretty terrible.”

Not easily discouraged and unwilling to give up so easily, Alabi, with immense support and encouragement from the community, soon devised a plan to reopen and continue his path as a restaurateur.

“The community has been tremendously supportive and really passionate about us coming back. Apparently this restaurant has had a much bigger effect than I realized on the community. It feels like it’s my duty to bring it back,” Alabi said.

Over the past few months, Alabi has been outfitting the new venue, by setting down floors, furnishing the dining room and bar and prepping the kitchen with the equipment necessary to efficiently make food as fast as possible without lowering the quality of the standards that his guests will expect.

“Restaurants of this type, we live and die by our preparation and our ability to execute. There’s nothing worse than finding a place that has great food and a great atmosphere, but it takes forever to get your food,” Alabi said. “ I’ve taken everything I’ve learned in the past couple of years, and I learned what’s important and what’s not, so we’re trying to hit all the important spots.

Instead of being overly concerned or bitter about the tragedies of the past, Alabi has made the decision to focus and work hard for the future at 441 Public Kitchen & Bar. Alabi is currently still working on the renovation of his new restaurant, and although he is unsure about when 441 will be able to open its doors to the public, he hopes it’ll be sooner rather than later.

“I think, as far as South and Vine goes, we had a great spot, it was a great start, but now we’re focused on 441 and improving everything that people loved about South & Vine and also really improving things that were really not the best.”

441 Public Kitchen & Bar: Food that warms your heart

Seni Alabi, the previous owner of South & Vine Public House, has assured the community that his upcoming restaurant, 441 Public Kitchen and Bar, will emulate its predecessor’s success in areas like atmosphere and food.

“It’s always been very important to me to have a restaurant that feels comfortable. You’ll see ‘public’ repeated in the names of the restaurant I operate because that is who it is for, it’s for everybody. I want any and every one to be able to come through the door and feel comfortable and feel at home,” Alabi said.

The range of 441’s diverse menu will cover all different styles of cuisine, such as Indian curry, Korean barbeque, Spanish octopus, gumbo, wings and short ribs, Caribbean classics, and American cuisine like mac n cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, and shrimp and grits. In addition, Alabi also proudly informs that with the added kitchen space 441 has, he’ll be able to feature a lot more vegetable-centric dishes as well. With such a wide array of entrees in its culinary arsenal, 441 does its best to ensure that there’ll be at least something each member of your group of friends will like when browsing their menu.

“All the things you expect will be here, as well as a lot of things that you won’t expect. I also really love seafood, so I try to feature those things as much as I can. You don’t really see seafood around here in a form other than fried, so we try to avoid that. And there’s nothing wrong with fried fish or seafood, but in a place where you don’t see that very often, I try to offer a different presentation of it here,” Alabi said.

Alabi has 16 to 17 different providers to deliver him with the fresh and quality ingredients he regularly uses for his meals, enabling him to make all of his dishes from scratch and in-house. With his various providers, Alabi is able to procure custom ingredients such as Maple syrup from upstate New York, scallops from Maine, and lobsters from Nova Scotia. Alabi also recognizes the value and importance of the farmer’s market, working with local providers as well.

“I want people to experience things that they could normally couldn’t get their hands on in a South Georgia environment, and things that you can get that you lost familiarly with. There’s an abundance of agriculture here. People grow some beautiful vegetables, and I think it’s important to celebrate those things,” Alabi said.

In addition to procuring providers for top-tier ingredients, Alabi has purchased specialized equipment in order to further improve the style and quality of cooking he desires in the kitchen.

“We have a 1000lb floor mixer in place, that mixer is there because we have a serious baking operation here. We do our own breads and buns, and things of that nature. Nothing comes in here incomplete, packaged, or premade. The kitchen is built to handle that style of cooking,” Alabi said. “It’s the same thing in the bar. There’s no mixtures, we juice up own citrus, our own pineapples, pomegranate, anything that’s in the drink, it’s the actual ingredient.”

Alabi was also excited to share the news that they will also include new additions that were previously unavailable during their run with South & Vine, such as a Sunday brunch every week. Every Sunday, 441 will be able to showcase its array of classic breakfast dishes like English muffins and French Toast made in-house, as well as pancakes made from buttermilk from Southern Swiss Dairy.

“ I take a lot of pride in our breakfast items because they are things that we don’t normally do, and anyone who has had a chance to experience it knows that we use the same preparation that we do in all of our cooking in brunch. It’s these small touches that take it from ‘oh it’s just brunch’ to something that transcended the taste in these items,” Alabi said.

With all the preparation and forethought went into the menu for 441 Public Kitchen and Bar, Alabi is excited for its debut, so that the community can come and enjoy their menu.

“I think with the experience we gained over the last few years, we’ll be able to do some really cool things with this space and give the people all the things they loved about South & Vine while progressing as chefs, cooks and restaurateurs,” Alabi said.