Atlanta restaurant serves food and culture with deep West African roots

At Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen and Bar in Atlanta, owners Gregory “Gee” Smalls, Juan Smalls and Gregory “Little Gee” Smalls, keep Gullah culture alive while also helping the community.
7:12 | 02/17/21

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Transcript for Atlanta restaurant serves food and culture with deep West African roots
It's time for our open for business series. As we celebrate black history month we're highlighting the family behind Virgil's gullah kitchen and bar in Atlanta. I'm You ready to go. The couple who brought their community together with their restaurant, amazing energy and incredible soul food. They'll join us in a moment. First let's take a look at how they got started. Three, two -- Reporter: When Virgil's gullah kitchen opened in 2019, it was the spot to be in college park. The mix of community, family and that famous gullah-geechee cuisine. Where would you get the best soul food other than the first black culture in America. Full of soul, love and intention inspired by gee's father who tog him the importance of the gullah-geechee culture. In our culture we believe in the power of our an ses terse and spiritual guide. I know he's been a spirit gal guide for a chance meeting bringing me and my husband together. Reporter: His husband Juan naming the restaurant Virgil after the man who inspired it all. Then less than a year in -- after our opening the pandemic hit. And we had to quickly shift and pivot and change the entire business model actually. We've never done take-out prior to that. It was coming but how do we prepare this food that looks so great on a plate and now pivot to take it to people's homes? Reporter: The community rallying around their new gullah-geechee family and Virgil's weathered the storm. It's just been really, really a blessing. Really a blessing. Reporter: That blessing allowing them every day to spread love, happiness and gullah-geechee. I'm going to join you two in a minute where I don't have to talk. You're will go going at it. Joined by the owners of Virgil's in Atlanta, Gregory gee and Juan Smalls along with his son Gregory little gee Smalls. Thanks for joining us. Juan, we saw how passionate you are about keeping the gullah culture alive and creating a safe space for the lgbtq community, black lgbtq community is just as important as the food. How have they been able to express their appreciation for the restaurant? Absolutely, black folks in the lgbtq community have really poured out their love and support for us. This is a home away from home. They are appreciated and affirmed and loved and accepted rather than just tolerated like some other places in the city. And what's also special and near and dear to my heart we serve as an inspiration to others to pursue name dream, passions, anything is possible if you just do the work. Amen to everything you just said there. I know that gee, gee is about to prepare one of the signature dishes. I want little gee to get in on this, little gee, how does it feel to be helping out the family business during the Well, I'm a barber by trade so having to step down from my own business to help the family business has been stressful but it's been fun -- it's been fun and stressful but definitely worth it. Pretty cool, right? Yeah. Keep the legacy going. And this shrimp and grits is pretty great with crab gravy. They've given us portions enough to last us a week. Tell us how it's made, gee. Yes, sir, so the first thing you want to do, got to find the ugliest pots in your kitchen. If they have not been used they're not good. I started off with bacon, getting real crispy right now. If you don't like bacon, don't want pork, side eye, you can use butter instead, some so I'meding onions and pepper and white onion. We let that saute a bit. Before we drop our shrimp and our crab, now, I'll tell you, crab is in addition to the shrimp and grits. I just like to add that as a little more flavor but what a lot don't know is shrimp and grits was actually originated in Charleston. Gullah-geechee culture and one thing that's special about that is if it ain't got brown gravy, it ain't right. No redgrave very. No cream gravy. No tomato. The brown gravy is what makes it authentic. We'll let the crab and shrimp and I also have a little secret here which is crab base. If you can't find crab base, just use seafood stock, crab stock or shrimp stock. Gee, let me get you -- We know -- Let the grits cook while we do this part. So you got the crabmeat and you have the shrimp, gee is on the grits. These grits are perfect. Gee is on the grits. What's the secret to making perfect grits? Really good. So, I'll tell you, first off I like to use stone ground grits. It take as a little long story cook but it's more tasty, the texture is better. I use a little chicken base, make that busting like we say in Charleston, shoutout to my folks. Make that thing busting and put chicken base in there and, of course, cheddar cheese. Cheddar make it better. I grew up on cheddar. I ain't about the gouda, goat cheese, cheddar cheese. So now this is going over here. I'm just going to add flour, water and a little browning sauce. And that's going to get a little thick. This is so good. This is really good. My seasonings in there. It smells so good. It smells so good. This is one of my favorites too. Yes, sir. It's those little things -- I've had shrimp and grits but never had the crab with the shrimp and -- sorry with the shrimp and grits. So what you want to do is -- yes, go ahead. Put some grits on that plate. Oh, man. Look at that. Two scoops. Two scoops. Make it clean, now. Come on, gee. I'm the type of person, ain't pretty but it tastes good. My boo right here knows how to make it pretty. Scallions and -- Shrimp and grits. It's great what you guys do down there and keep it up but what I love the most seen as a family work together, have fun together and make incredible food and I wasn't going to eat much because I thought I would get back in shape but I'm giving in today and will eat this whole plate. I know you trying to stay off the carbs, Mike. You can afford it. Can you afford it. Today I will. I'm going to tear this up. Thank you all. Appreciate you and everybody at home find the recipe on our website, Do yourself a favor, really, it's worth it.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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