Dining Out


A Non-Profit Restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina inspired by the Republic of Georgia

The team at Keipi
Written by Emily Havener, Images courtesy of Chris Pitts

When Keipi opened in May 2022, they were told by the American Friends of Georgia cultural embassy that they were only the 12th Georgian restaurant in the US. (That’s the Republic of Georgia, for the record.) “We’re fascinated by the culture and the cuisine,” says general manager Andrew Martin. “We are not Georgians and we try to be clear about that, but our project is in honor of, and in tribute to, a country that is profoundly meaningful to all of us.”

The nonprofit restaurant supports the First Things Foundation, founded by John Heers, who lived in Georgia as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1990s and fell in love with the country and its customs, among them the keipi tradition of sharing toasts during a meal.

Staff and volunteers at Keipi act as tamadas, or toastmasters, for interested diners. Martin says, “It’s a personal experience for each table. In Georgian culture you toast to everything—life, death, romance, loss, it all comes together. Sometimes we toast the whole restaurant—it wouldn’t be unusual at all, in Georgia, for tables to connect with one another and toast with each other. We try to grease the skids and get that going.” In addition, every Friday night, there is a community keipi, translated as a party or feast, where up to 18 people can reserve a seat at the table.

Head chef Irina Tarasenko directs a menu comprised of dishes that residents and visitors from Eastern Europe would expect to see: khatchapuri, a cheese bread that echoes Italian flavors; khinkali, a dumpling reminiscent of bao; and pali, a pureed spinach salad with Slavic influences. And the restaurant carries only Georgian wine, about half of which is prepared in the traditional fashion of fermenting in qvevris, or barrels—a practice that dates back 8,000 years.

“The table in Georgian metaphor is the place where heaven and earth meet,” Martin says. “So we try to have the beautiful things of the earth and the transcendent things of human love and relationship meet at the table. And something special is happening.”

Spread of salads, khatchapuri, and eggplant rolls at Keipi, one of the new restaurants in South Carolina

Can’t Miss at Keipi

Teliani Valley Kindzmarauli

This red wine made in the millennias-old qvevri tradition has notes of wild cherry and crème fraîche. The Teliani Valley is the heart of Georgian winemaking, and wines from this region are vibrant, gutsy, and utterly unique.

Traditional Adjaruli Khatchapuri

The most “quintessentially Georgian dish we have,” Martin says, is shaped like a boat for blessing—Georgian women from the Adjara region made them as good luck for their sailor husbands as they went out on the Black Sea. The bread becomes a bed for stretchy cheese that’s topped with a raw egg yolk, which you break and mix with the cheese; then tear off pieces of bread to dip. It’s only available for dining in—for good reason.


Best eaten within the first five minutes it’s on the table, this Georgian soup dumpling is filled with beef, onion, spices, and a broth you drink right out of the dumpling like a cup. Pick it up by the “stem,” carefully take a bite, and tip the juices into your mouth, then devour the rest.

Badrijani, an eggplant roll recipe, offered at Keipi


This 10-ounce meat skewer features beef or lamb that’s marinated in pomegranate juice, onions, and herbs and is then charred on the outside and served rare with spicy adjika or satsebeli sauce, or Georgian pesto.

Get the recipe: Badrijani (eggplant rolls with walnut filling)

about this restaurant

  • Chef

    Irina Tarasenko

  • Address

    1320 Hampton Avenue Extension
    Greenville, South Carolina

    • Mediterranean

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