Allie Schools and Pat Groom are upstate New York natives who have found themselves down south with a passion for quality food and small business. Together, Schools, 30, and Groom, 38, have opened Statesboro Hots in the former Bites location on Brampton Avenue.
Allie Schools and Pat Groom
Groom grew up in the suburbs of Rochester, NY, and first came to the south to attend culinary school at the Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina. After a brief re-location back to New York, he moved to Statesboro to be close to family in Augusta and began working at Forest Heights Country Club.
Schools is originally from Hudson, NY, and also moved down south to be closer to family. She attended the University of South Carolina Beaufort for hospitality management.
The two met on Tinder, connected over their shared home state, and have been together for a little over three years. They got engaged at Thanksgiving 2020. They are now working to bring a taste of upstate New York to the people of Statesboro through this shared venture.
While Groom had the vision for the restaurant as soon as he moved to Statesboro in 2013, it wasn’t yet the right time. Eventually, he was ready to move forward with the idea but was delayed once again by issues with finding a location and by COVID.
But when Groom heard through a friend that the owners of Bites were looking to fill their old location and sell their equipment, the pieces finally came together.
“At the time, I was thinking to myself, ‘This kind of opportunity isn’t going to come around again,’” Groom said. So while it was a bit of a financial challenge, it was the right move.
“I think it was a good choice because this is a great location, not only for the college kids but also for all the businesses and medical offices in here,” he said of their new home in the Market District.
To finally bring their vision to life in their new space, Groom, with his culinary background, focused mainly on food, and Schools, with her background in management, handled the business side.
Both credit their families for their extensive help, along with other local businesses like Davis Marketing, Action Signs, Underwood Restaurant and Store Equipment, and Clayton Digital.
Through that vision, passion, and a lot of hard work, Statesboro Hots officially opened on April 18 of this year.
The restaurant serves appetizers, chicken fingers, a “trash plate,” Zweigle’s hot dogs and sausages, burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, and wraps, along with a variety of housemade sides, sauces, and dressings.
The Zweigle’s “hots” and the trash plate are unique to the upstate New York area. Schools and Groom are excited to introduce them to Statesboro.
“We’re giving Statesboro what they didn’t know they needed,” Schools said.
Hots is modeled after the places Groom loved growing up and in college. The goal is to bring something new and different to Statesboro while offering quality, housemade food. Schools and Groom are also excited to add a new locally owned, small business to Statesboro. Similar to the “mom and pop” restaurants they know and love from their home state.
“We want to be local as much as possible,” Schools said. “That’s what we did throughout the whole time of building this place up, and that’s what we want to continue to do.”
The “hots” name is common in the Rochester area. It refers to the common hot dog in the region – Zweigle’s – which Groom special orders from New York-area food suppliers. The “garbage” or “trash” plate is also a regional specialty, born from Nick Tahou’s Hots in Rochester.
“There are places like this all over New York,” Groom said. “Every restaurant is going to have the Garbage Plate. It’s huge up there.”
The Statesboro Hots Trash Plate is a choice of two sides, smothered in your choice of meat, hot sauce, ketchup, mustard, and onions, and it comes with a piece of Italian bread for sopping.
“And the hot dogs – that’s just what everybody uses up there,” he added. “They’re really good. That’s what I grew up on. Any place you go up there and you get a hot dog, it’s a Zweigle.”
The hot dog options include red or white “pop-open” hots, chili dogs, slaw dogs, kraut dogs, Italian sausages, and even a signature Boro hot.
Sides and sauces are also a big part of the Hots equation. They’re an integral part of any plate you order – especially the Trash Plate. The restaurant offers fresh cut french fries, home fries, tots, macaroni salad, and baked beans.
“Traditionally, the ‘big three’ are the mac salad, the home fries, and the baked beans,” Groom said. “From there, you pick what meats you want. The standard would be a cheeseburger plate with mac salad and home fries, and you’ve got your hot sauce that goes on top of it.”
“And I really think the hot sauce is what makes it,” he added. “I’m a big sauce guy.”
Hots’ housemade sauces include barbeque, ranch, sweet heat sriracha, honey mustard, fry sauce, Buffalo, Carolina barbeque, Buffalo ranch, chipotle, and the New York favorite, country sweet.
Both Schools and Groom agree that the quality of ingredients is what will set Statesboro Hots apart. “Quality is a huge thing for me,” Groom said. “Standards are a huge thing for me. The homemade dressings, the homemade sauces – nothing is coming out of a jug. We’re not doctoring things up to make it our own. We make our own from the ground up.”
Schools can attest that Groom has put an extreme amount of time and effort into developing the recipes. “The time he put into making these recipes – he would just keep making batches and batches at home to make sure it was exactly what he was envisioning serving to everybody,” she said.
“It wasn’t just going to be a couple things put together and ‘it is what it is’ It was time and passion.”
Groom is motivated to continue his commitment to quality as Hots continues to grow and serve.
“I don’t want to serve things out of a tub,” he said. “I want to do things right. The people of Statesboro deserve a little bit nicer of a place to eat.”
So far, the response from the public has been great, according to Groom. The chicken fingers and chicken sandwiches have routinely been best sellers. The hot dog plates have also been very popular, both the red and white versions.
“It’s been all five star reviews since opening,” he said. “There’s been a couple of complaints about things, and that’s going to happen, obviously. We’re not perfect. We’re still trying to get in our groove, and we’re getting there for sure.”
Schools and Grooms are excited for all the opportunities they’ll have in the future. Catering, being a vendor at local venues, and eventually expanding into a larger space or other locations. They also want to bring additional regional products like Abbott’s Frozen Custard to Statesboro.
“These opportunities feel so rewarding already,” Schools said. “Even though it’s not happened yet, the potential feels like a success.”
“This is our baby, and I want to watch this place grow,” Groom added. “It’s going to grow, and it’s going to be pretty special, I think.”