"Loose Lip" Larry Speights of Lake Arrowhead is bringing his twist on classic Southern cuisine to Waleska residents starved for dining options.
Loose Lip Larry's Restaurant conducted a soft opening on Saturday, and since then, business has been "booming," according to Speights.
"We have people out of the door," he said.
Speights' restaurant is on Reinhardt College Parkway in The Gathering Place's former location.
The restaurant, Speights said, will feature Southern food and some gourmet-style dishes he's created.
Speights, known for his Loose Lip Larry barbecue sauce sold in stores, will also serve up barbecue dishes smothered in different blends of his sauce.
Beginning Monday, the restaurant hours will be from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
While the restaurant features some gourmet dishes, prices will remain affordable, Speights said.
Items on the breakfast menu begin at $4 and quick-shop sandwich lunches begin at $5.75.
Breakfast items include cooked-to-order eggs, omelets, biscuits, sausage, bacon, pastries, pancakes, French toast, regular toast and potato rounds.
Eighteen gourmet entrees are available for patrons to choose from, including grilled Cajun and jerk chicken topped with a glazed au jus sauce and sauteed onions, special seasoned rosemary pork, chicken marsala topped with sauteed mushrooms, large blush shrimp in a bed of chopped romaine salad, tender marinated grilled jerk-seasoned chicken salad, sunny tomato baby shrimp salad, chicken picata topped with a seasoned sauce, roasted seasoned pork loin with a brown sauce, Greek-style chicken and tuna salad and a fried fish dish in a creamy sauce topped with vegetables finished with a golden breadcrumb topping.
All gourmet dishes are $8.99 including a side, beverage and dessert. The restaurant also will have weekly dining specials.
One of Speights' specialties is his Chicken Cordon Bleu.
The dish features chicken topped with a lemon white cream sauce and fried, crispy artichokes served with Southern-style potato salad and green beans.
A good Southern restaurant wouldn't be perfect without good ol' fashioned barbecue, and the menu is not short on choices.
Patrons can choose from Sho' Mmm Good Smoked Pulled Pork, three bone ribs or chicken. Speights offers a wide variety of his famous sauces to choose from including Cajun & Jerk Pork, Sweet Georgia, Sweet Georgia Spicy, Ginger Snap Cajun, Jerk Honey Mustard, Southern Style, Loose Lip Larry and Mrs. Alma's (named after his wife), Red Spicy, Mild, and Thick and Rich.
The sauces can be purchased at Publix and Winn-Dixie supermarkets as well as in Canton's McFarland's IGA, Waleska Super Thrift and Tommy's Food Market in Waleska, Clayton Food Store, Ray's Wholesale Foods in White and Piggly Wiggly in Jasper, Calhoun and Cartersville.
The barbecued meat is served with a choice of cole slaw or potato salad; choice of cornbread, dinner rolls or buns; baked beans, a drink and dessert all for $8.99.
"Once you taste it, you won't waste it," Speights said of his dishes.
Side items include pinto beans, Southern-style green beans, pasta salad, Southern-style potato salad, fried okra and cornbread.
A children's menu features chicken tenders, grilled hamburgers, grilled cheeseburgers, hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches. Side items for the children's menu include a Toss Me a Kid salad, chips, French fried potatoes or baked pasta cheese melt.
A $7.99 breakfast buffet is from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays, and a brunch buffet for the same price is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
Speights, a longtime resident, said it was time to bring a restaurant of his own to Waleska.
"I'm doing this for the community," he said, noting he also will do catering for events such as weddings and receptions. "I feel like we need a good restaurant here."
Speights, 50, has long dabbled in the world of cooking.
A retired military master sergeant, he worked as Reinhardt College's assistant food services director on its Waleska campus from 2002-09.
He also published in September 2007 a 64-page cookbook, "Loose Lip Larry Presents: You Can Cook Too (The Passion For Cooking)."
While in the military, he served in Bosnia where he met his wife, Alma, who is the catering coordinator with Aramark at Reinhardt College. They have five children.
Speights, who said the mild barbecue sauce named after his wife reflects her personality, credits all his success to her.
"If it weren't for her, I wouldn't be successful," he said.
In his spare time, Speights conducts fundraisers for students at R.M. Moore Elementary School in Waleska to help them pay for field trips.
The opening of the restaurant has been a joyous occasion for some of Waleska's residents.
City Councilwoman Edna Cook said she's "tickled to death" to have a new place of dining to open up.
"It's good Southern food," she said.
Mrs. Cook, who already has dined there, said she especially likes the pasta dishes and Speights' barbecue sauces.
She said the restaurant's location is convenient for its residents.
"We have a restaurant we can walk to," she said, adding the restaurant brings a "closer community feeling" to Waleska.
Reinhardt College President J. Thomas Isherwood said he also is excited to see the restaurant open for business.
Speights had a wonderful spirit while he worked at Reinhardt, Isherwood said. He was so conscientious about his role that he and his staff would sing "Happy Birthday" to students.
"I hope people ... will have the opportunity to experience his hospitality," Isherwood said.
Speights said he is dependent upon the community's support to stay open.
While past restaurants have struggled, Speights said he will do everything he can to serve the people of Waleska and Cherokee County.
"Loose Lip Larry's wants to be here to stay," he said.