By Kristin Hackler
There’s new scent drifting down the walkways at Front Beach. It’s warm, hot and full of spicy tomatoes and a touch of sizzling sausage. Follow your nose and it will lead you to something that’s been a long time coming on the Isle of Palms: Luke n’ Ollie’s Pizzeria.
Taking up residence in the former Barefoot Bistro location, Luke n’ Ollie’s is owner Jonathan Swartz’s first official venture into restaurant ownership, and he’s already piquing the island’s culinary palate.
The menu seems to have something for everyone without going overboard on the selection. For starters, you could enjoy a light hummus dip or a fried green caprese salad which includes fried green tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, red onions and homemade balsamic dressing. Salads are prepared in a thin-crust bread bowl – not too thick, but not cracker-thin – and feature everything from gorgonzola, walnuts and chicken to mixed greens with tomatoes, bacon, mozzarella, red onion and avocados, as well the clean, crisp house salad with carrots, red cabbage, tomatoes, red onion, olives and pepperoncini.
The main feature, pizza, is a delicious leap away from the franchise pizzas that were once the only slices available on the island. The crust is made by a local baker following Jonathan’s own secret recipe, and along with the traditional choice of cheese and pepperoni, Luke n’ Ollie’s offers several spins on Italian classics. There’s the White pizza with mozzarella, ricotta and pecorino romano on an olive oil and garlic-rubbed crust; and the Steak, which piles Philly cheese steak, garlic, carmelized onions, sautéed green peppers and mushrooms on a garlic and olive oil crust. If you like your pizza sauce, Luke n’ Ollie’s make their own in-house and offer it on their Meat Lovers pizza as well as The Hypocrite: a veggie pizza with sauce, generously covered with thick slices of pepperoni.
If you’re not in the mood for pizza, there’s a nice selection of wraps and subs, as well as a personal favorite of Jonathan’s: the PB3.
“I tried this at a New Orleans restaurant and loved it,” said Jonathan. “They used Baco bits, which I thought were a little too salty, so we use slices of regular bacon.” The sandwich, Jonathan noted, is a huge hit with the ladies. “We have a girl who posted about it on Facebook while she was eating here,” Jonathan grinned. “She couldn’t get over how great she thought it was!”
Throw in a few classics like the Chicken or Eggplant Parmesan Sub and a hearty Italian Sausage Sub, and you have the makings of a one-size-fits-all casual family dining restaurant on the water. However, Jonathan wasn’t satisfied with simply pleasing his diners’ palates: he also wants to offer them a challenge.
“I’m a huge fan of the Food Network,” said Jonathan. “I love to watch Man vs. Food, Iron Chef, all of those, and the food challenges always seemed to me to be just that; a ‘challenge’. There wasn’t too much talk about the taste of the food.”
With that idea in mind, Jonathan decided to offer one of the most delicious food challenges in the area. He calls it the Steak Bomb Challenge. A 16 inch Italian sub, loaded with 10 oz. of Philly cheese steak, 8 oz. of hamburger, 4 oz. of Italian sausage, sautéed onions, peppers and mushrooms, topped with a fourth of a pound of melted provolone and a heaping portion of fries.
If you finish all of it, sandwich and fries, within an hour, Luke n’ Ollie’s will put your picture on their Steak Bomb Challenge Wall of Winners and give you a $10 gift certificate toward your next visit. And after only three weeks of being open, 10 customers out of 25 have already gotten their pictures tacked to the Wall. To sweeten the deal, Luke n’ Ollie’s is offering another deal: beat the best time and get a $100 gift certificate to the restaurant. But the best time will already be a pretty tough time to beat. “We already had a guy finish the challenge in 13 minutes,” said Jonathan. “But we haven’t had a woman beat the challenge yet, so there’s still a good chance for a woman to win the $100 gift certificate.”
Luke n’ Ollie’s also offers a full bar menu and if you drop by during the day, be sure to get your picture with the five foot tall Luke statue on the front patio.
Who are Luke n’ Ollie, you may ask? “They’re my cats,” grinned Jonathan.
For more information about Luke n’ Ollie’s, call 242-8121. Takeout is available, and special offers and discounts can be found on their Facebook page. Luke n’ Ollie’s Pizzeria is located at 1101-C Ocean Blvd. Isle of Palms.