“You really don’t come here just to eat,” says Kimberly Kulers, who runs farm-to-table restaurant SoCo in Wilson with her husband Jeremy Law. “When people come for dinner, a lot of the time they’ll come and grab a glass of wine, walk around, meet the horses. Then dinner is usually about two hours. It’s about the whole experience.”
It’s a personal one, from the communal dining table the couple built themselves of old farm wood to the horses, bee hives, and organic produce the couple cultivates on their 11-acre working farm. Kulers calls it a “small batch” approach, a unique alternative, she says, to Eastern North Carolina’s more common barbecue and steakhouses.
When Jeremy Law worked as Vivian Howard’s sous chef at acclaimed restaurant Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, “we got to see that people do like this (upscale) kind of food, and they will drive for it,” Kulers says. “If you build it, they will come.”
When SoCo opened in 2010, the husband-wife team sat 14 people at a time at their communal table and only served a multi-course surprise prix fixe chef’s tasting menu. Gradually, they expanded their service and hired staff, but Kulers says expansion felt disingenuous. “We enjoy when it’s just the two of us. We get to take more time with the diners and with the food. It’s exactly what we want to do.” They’ve now pared back down: Law is in the kitchen and Kulers in the front, serving 12 people at a time at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The menu is four courses, prix fixe, and posted in advance. Once a month, there’s the more adventursome – and intimate – chef’s tasting dinner with 14 diners around a shared table feasting on a surprise, seasonal prix fixe menu.
Even the regular prix fixe menu includes “question marks. We’ve got to see what’s coming up in the garden that day.” After all, this isn’t just about the food. “We get to know everyone who comes in here. This is sort of like us having a dinner party with our friends. Every weekend.” –J.A.