Nestled between Spring Hill Park and the Spring Hill Resource Center in southwestern DeLand is a modest building that was renovated two years ago to make a home for Spring Hill BBQ & Soul Food Lounge.
Inside, you’ll find Terehl Johnson, Jarvis Carr and Neiko Pate in the restaurant, aiming to provide each of their customers with food service of a quality they found lacking in the area when the opportunity arose to renovate a run-down building at 905 S. Adelle Ave.
The interior of the restaurant is quaint and casual, with room for about 18 people to sit comfortably.
Seating isn’t a problem; most of the business comes from people ordering food to go. Johnson said he and his partners fill about 300 to-go orders each week.
The noise of fans cooling the dining room can be a bit distracting at first, but it doesn’t keep people from coming by to enjoy a meal.
In addition to breakfast items that include chicken waffles and shrimp and grits, Spring Hill BBQ & Soul Food Lounge offers one dinner special, sometimes including barbecue, each day.
The full menu — ribs, fried chicken, fried pork chops, rib sandwich, etc. — is available only on Friday.
If you want to sit and eat, you’ll want to go for breakfast or lunch, as the restaurant closes daily at 2 p.m. Many customers take out their evening meals.
The menu is fairly small. One item, the fried chicken sandwich, caught my eye and prompted an immediate order.
If you’re like me, the Spring Hill BBQ & Soul Food Lounge fried chicken sandwich may surprise you.
You’re asked by a member of the staff whether you want white or dark meat (I chose white). When your sandwich comes out, you’ll see that the chicken is actually a huge piece of bone-in chicken breast served between two slices of bread, with lettuce, cheese and tomato, if you like.
I assumed you were supposed to eat this as you would any other sandwich, but that would require some very strong teeth.
After a few moments of confusion, I made eye contact with Terehl. He met my helpless gaze.
“How do I eat this? Am I doing it wrong?” I asked.
“You rip it apart with your hands. Get messy with it!” he replied.
I was left with no choice but to get hands-on, and show that chicken who’s boss.
While their fried chicken lacks the thick, consistent breading common in some fast-food restaurants, this chicken has the distinct flavor found only in homemade fried chicken.
My guest decided to go with something a bit more predictable: the steak sub on Texas toast. We argued a bit over whether Texas toast is Texas toast if the bread isn’t toasted. The jury is still out, but, nevertheless, this bread was toasted.
The sandwich had steak, green peppers, onions and my guest’s choice of cheese. It was just cheesy enough, and the peppers added a good texture with a flavorful twist.
Renditions of steak sub are common in West Volusia restaurants, and this version compares well with others I’ve tried.
Why use Texas toast?
“It’s because it’s thicker and makes the sub taste so much better,” co-owner Jarvis explained.
It’s a recent change, and the feedback has been positive, he said.
I managed to snag a bite of the sandwich and have to say that the thicker toast makes a positive difference.
Drinks are for the most part self-service, as there is a cooler near the entrance where you can have your choice of soda, juice or water. A wall is lined with televisions and, during football season, the restaurant projects select games out back on the covered patio for guests to view.
Most of the menu options are highly customizable. Our server, Jarvis Carr, who is one of the cooks and Terehl’s cousin, asked us if we wanted to add any condiments such as mayonnaise, ketchup or hot sauce. He also asked if there were any ingredients we wished to forgo.
It seems the Spring Hill BBQ & Soul Food Lounge staff goes the extra mile to please guests. Terehl said they sometimes prepare dishes that aren’t on the menu, such as macaroni and cheese, which they cooked up recently for a small event.
Alcohol isn’t permitted at the restaurant, or even at parties booked there. This is a reflection of the owners’ commitment to the community.
“You can’t have that stuff around if you’re trying to build up the community,” Jarvis said.
Terehl said the restaurant gets compliments on its cleanliness, and it was clean. The interior, even after two years, still looks new.
While Spring Hill BBQ & Soul Food Lounge is still a young restaurant, their food, their service, and their commitment to making a positive impact on the community will likely keep them around for a long time.
The restaurant has gained quite a following, with members of the Spring Hill Neighborhood Association and employees of the City of DeLand being frequent customers.
The Beacon’s very own Eli Witek is a staunch supporter, and especially praises the ribs served on Fridays as part of the weekly barbecue dinner.
“We want to show people a positive business. We have a five-year plan to stay in operation, and after those five years, we want to remain open for another five years to show people consistency within the community.” Terehl said. “No one around here sees longevity; the kids don’t see longevity. We want to be role models to them.”
A big part of what they’re doing is showing people that a business in Spring Hill — which doesn’t have a lot of businesses — can succeed.
“People used to hang out here in this spot. Now because we’re here, that doesn’t happen anymore,” Terehl said. “I know for a fact that there hasn’t been any violence in the past two years, and families are saying it’s safer than it used to be, too.”
People are starting to see that Spring Hill’s restaurant isn’t going anywhere.
“It makes us feel good, too, because that’s us making a difference,” Terehl said.
On cold mornings during the winter, the entire restaurant team sets up outside and serves hot chocolate to children making their way to school.
“The parents are really thankful for that. They come in and say, ‘Wow, you guys gave them hot chocolate? You didn’t have to do that. That’s so nice!’” Terehl said.
They like doing it, he added, because not too long ago this location was not always safe for kids.
The day we visited, children could be heard playing at the nearby park.
Before Spring Hill BBQ & Soul Food Lounge opened two years ago, the three owners sat down and wrote out the recipes for all the menu items. The recipes are all their own and came from both tedious trial and error, and from watching their parents cook.
Once they got it right, they made sure to record everything, step by step, so the recipes can be taught to new employees. The team wanted everything to stay consistent.
“This is what the community needed,” Terehl said. “This and the community center they’re building [will] do a lot for people, and I hope we can lift this area up.”