The two have been throwing their hats into the culinary ring for nearly two decades, running a catering business and opening a restaurant. Now, they're putting down roots in Charleston.
This summer, the Joneses operated Free Reign at Workshop, offering a "wood-fired coastal" menu. After that three month venture ended, they were looking for a more-permanent location. This November they plan to open their first Charleston brick-and-mortar, Community Table, on the first floor of the Inn at I’On. (Nov. 21 to be exact, according to Ryan.)
The journey to Community Table began 19 years ago when Kelleanne was looking to hire a new chef for her catering business and a mutual friend introduced her to Ryan.
The Jones ran Pintore Catering together in Hartford, Conn. for 10 years. Amidst the demanding hours and physical exhaustion required by the work, Kelleanne and Ryan got married and started a family.
After deciding to say goodbye to Pintore, the Joneses moved to Las Vegas for a brief stint where Ryan helped open a large "three-meal restaurant open 18 hours a day." Equipped with 58 cooks and six sous chefs, Ryan quickly realized the eatery was a "beast that lacked passion."
Unable to find meaning in Sin City, the Jones family headed back to the East Coast.
During that 38-hour U-Haul drive home, the Joneses wrote the business plan for their dream restaurant. The Mill at 2t opened in Hartford in 2009 and quickly became "one of Hartford County’s top spots for fine dining" according to the Hartford Courant.
The family had successfully created their dream, a restaurant where they could "work together with minimal staff, minimal seats, and just have fun."
In 2010, the New York Times said, "The Mill at 2t is fresh, enjoyable, and unpretentious."
The Joneses say the Times captured their message perfectly, surprised and honored to be reviewed at all. Despite praise from the New York Times, Best Chefs America, Zagat, and multiple appearances at the James Beard House in New York, national recognition was not a part of their business plan.
"We never made that a goal," Kelleanne says. "We just wanted to work together and serve good food."
In 2016 they sold The Mill at 2t and relocated their family to Charleston.
After settling down in I’On, Ryan took a job as the culinary director for Mex 1. Kelleanne took one final stab in the corporate world before accepting that she was, in fact, a food industry lifer. After six months pushing papers, she joined her husband at Mex 1, helping run their catering and training programs.
- Community Table Instagram
- The Jones family at Workshop
Instead of serving the fast-casual, counter service menu like most of Workshop's stalls, the Jones clan decided they would use "real plates, real linen napkins, real forks," serving octopus, mussels, and other unexpected dishes — all through a walk-up takeout window.
Kelleanne and Ryan recognized the concept was odd, but luckily it "was so oddly interesting" that customers fell in love with the petite wood-fire kiosk with outdoor seating.
At the end of September, Free Reign came to an end and the Jones family set sights on their newest project, Community Table.
Community Table will be open daily for brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 4 to 9 p.m.
Describing the food at Community Table, the couple were hesitant to use categorical identifiers like "comfort" or "American."
"Comfort downplays it," says Ryan. What they want is to serve "approachable everyday classics … that make you feel good. That you want to eat every day."
It's not “beef stew or fried chicken,” more like “chicken paillard, hanger steak frites, and mussels.”
Behind the bar, there'll be a full line up of beer, wine, and liquor. Cocktails will be classics highlighted by fresh juice — "fresh-squeezed in front of you."
Customers can expect $30 bottles of sauvignon blanc, for example, so that people can “enjoy themselves and not question buying another bottle if they want one.”
“We want people to feel like they’re coming to our house to have dinner,” says Kelleanne, hoping to marry approachability with affordability.
As usual, the Joneses are running full tilt at Community Table as they renovate the first floor of the Inn at I’On. With the help of friends, the space is filled with bright whites, ivory, and driftwood. They estimate the space will fit about 85 seats, with a community table for 20 in the side room, a 12-person community table adjacent to the bar, 25 high tops on the porch, and tables filling the rest of the dining room.
While the Jones crew works on opening Community Table, they are already teasing another project on Cannon Street downtown. They say they hope to open that wood-fired spot by Spring 2020.