Open since January this year, the Wildemount restaurant (named for a land of adventure and imagination in the game Dungeons & Dragons) down on Park Avenue is quickly becoming an Aiken favorite. Still, it has an interesting story of how it came to be. Owner Sam O’Lone, who grew up in New Hampshire, began his food service career in food retail and at a local grocery store. He loved the industry and knew he wanted to stay on that path. Shortly after he moved to Aiken, Solo Vino closed, and the building became available, so O’Lone, a self-prescribed coffee snob, had the idea to turn the place into a coffee shop.
He soon met with Solo Vino owner Lou Giusto, who showed him around and explained all of the kitchen equipment; excited to have someone take over the restaurant location. As the two continued talking, O’Lone told Giusto that he wasn’t a chef and wasn’t planning on opening a restaurant in the space. But Giusto had an idea; he told O’Lone that if he wanted to open a restaurant, he would train him himself. O’Lone remembers thinking, “This is too good to be true.” And so it began. Every day, Monday through Friday from November to January, Giusto and O’Lone met for training, not only in cooking and technique but also in how to run a restaurant and business.
O’Lone now runs the front of house and cooks in the kitchen along with two chefs he has hired at Wildemount, Lee and Sean. Together, the three work on an ever-changing and delicious menu that is inspired by three main things: the season, customer favorites, and fresh ingredients. O’Lone has offered warm-weather favorites like grilled meats, fish, summer squash and other seasonal vegetables this summer. As it cools down, the menu will shift to include fall and winter-inspired bites and maybe even a Thanksgiving meal-O’Lone’s favorite meal to eat! They have a steady menu and offer specials like the 40 oz bone-in steak and a Lobster tail dish. Customer favorites tend to stay on the menu longer, and if an item isn’t moving, they get rid of it. O’Lone and his chefs want their patrons to enjoy incredible meals every time they visit.
The quality of food served in his restaurant is important to O’Lone, but so is the quality of service, and he believes that these two areas make the dining experience at Wildemount special and unique. O’Lone’s siblings help with the restaurant service, and he fully trusts them to take special care of each and every guest. O’Lone says it’s about “the whole dining experience” and that each table is taken care of, and every single plate goes out only after quality is ensured. Wildemount is small, intimate, and friendly; the food is thoughtful, delicious, and fresh.