Wielding a three-pointed compass of culinary inspiration, Hendersonville native Jon Mcleod, aka “Jonny Mac,” recently opened a one-room eatery in a Fletcher plaza, and, like a proud sea captain, named his vessel after himself. He’s got a strong crew behind him — business partners/co-owners Taresa Robinson, Brenda Mcleod, and Tim Shipman — but it’s one man’s vision that informs the broad front-of-house style.
For his signature dishes, Mcleod has netted shrimp-and-cheese-grits from Charleston (and other Low Country staples); a jambalaya platter, Shrimp Po’ Boy, and a classic Muffuletta sandwich from New Orleans; and added his own signature ribs and pulled pork to the list, making Carolina ’cue the third region represented in the Southeastern triangle of iconic eats.
The menu is a flourish of encouragement. “Wow, Daddy loves you!” it is noted besides the well-priced ($14) “Combo Platter” (a choice of any two regular platters, which incidentally includes the possibility of a whole Creole-roasted chicken).
Indeed he does. Mcleod’s gusto also shows up in a flurry of printed quotes on the menu’s back page, from sources both literary and jocular: “The secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside” (Mark Twain); “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” (Julia Child); “Not eating meat is a decision — eating meat is an instinct (comedian Denis Leary); etc.
However, there’s more to a successful restaurant than pushing a notion or two, and in that Mcleod has a lot of help from his friends. “All of our staff is skilled and trained in every area,” he says. “Our desserts and even our sauces are all made with special care. We roast all our meats in house, and everything — I mean everything — is homemade.”
He bastes the idea with some history, noting, “the dishes of the mountains and lowlands, these coastal city [flavors] that we incorporate, were considered ‘poor people’s food,’ made with great care and flavor.”
His own “swamp-water tea” is a down-home touch not often seen, even in WNC’s other Southern-cuisine-centric spots. “It’s a Charleston recipe — a combination of our Southern sweet tea and fruit juices,” notes Mcleod. The cheese grits are expertly creamy, and Mac’s BBBB (bacon-and-beef baked beans) are destined to become a hearty house favorite.
The restaurateur can claim real-time expertise, explaining, “I learned my barbecue here in the mountains, and I resided in Charleston for quite some time, where I learned their cuisine. And I just love the New Orleans Bayou dishes. My three favorites. I have been doing these dishes for years, and we have put our own twist to them.”
His concept includes a frequent changeup of repertoire — as classic but urgent as the retro doo-wop and girl-group hits surging over the dining room’s stereo system. “We are constantly experimenting,” says Mcleod, “and we already have enough of these regional dishes to make an entirely new menu. We plan to switch them up here and there, and we also run daily specials often.
One standout on the sandwich menu doesn’t hail from Jonny Mac’s holy trinity of food destinations, though — it’s The Cuban, a delicacy born in Miami, and, in recent decades, popularized outside of Florida. Mcleod’s version features pulled pork, pit ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and homemade Cuban mustard. The immensely flavorful sandwich is buttered and pressed inside at thick Portuguese roll.
The restaurant’s apple-cranberry-walnut pie is fantastic — local apples given an even tarter edge with cranberries and a wakeful texture with lots of nuts, all in a real-deal crust. A rich brownie-cake combo is called the Chocolate Trainwreck, and the menu also lists homemade vanilla ice cream, served a la mode or a la carte. It might be nice to see even more “sweet hankerings” (as the menu calls them) on offer, for what is the soulful cuisine of the South — from any region therein — without them?
Jonny Mac’s Lowcountry Grille & BBQ is located at 3885 Hendersonville Road in Fletcher. Open Monday through Saturday, 11am-8pm, Sunday from 10am-2pm. For more information, see jonnymacsnc.com or call 828-376-3679.