Southern Summit

Cocktail at The Summit Room
Cocktail at The Summit Room

After having worked 17 years in the Carolina Panthers’ Communication Department, Deedee Mills left and started the Behailu Academy, a non-profit 501(c)(3) that offers middle and highschoolers the opportunity to “find their voice through the arts and community service” at no cost. Strongly holding to the belief that community aids in the development of children, Behailu Academy serves about 45 students after-school and challenges them to step outside the box to work creatively, while receiving quality instruction in the arts. This willingness to take risks is also a huge part of Mills’ life.

Deedee Mills of The Summit Room
Deedee Mills of The Summit Room

On October 18, 2013, Mills sat with her friend Nicole, and others in a tent on the side of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa.  “Freezing, tired, and anxious,” they were preparing to journey up to the summit, the “top of Africa.”  “Nicole asked me to climb Kilimanjaro with her for her 40th birthday.  After I double checked I couldn’’t change her mind to Vegas, I said okay.”  Having been inspired by the fact that her son was born in Ethiopia, and by the soft spot Mills has for Africa, she stepped out of her comfort zone and did the eight day climb, but not before thinking, “If I get off this mountain, you won’t ever see my face on Crowder’’s Mountain! I was one and done.”

Having achieved her goal, Mills came home from Tanzania with an attitude devoid of defeatism. “After reaching the summit, I was overwhelmed with pride, exhilaration, and exhaustion…I could hardly breathe as it was, and my crying was making it ten times worse, so I had to get it together to enjoy the moment.” For Mills, achieving the summit was life altering; it gave her the strength to carry on with her plan to open a restaurant.  The day after arriving home, Mills had a meeting at “1531 East Boulevard and The Summit Room was born.”  
Mills, a native Carolinian, grew up in Williamston, NC.  Because of her roots, The Summit features Southern inspired dishes. With only a year under her belt as owner and operator of the Mayobird food truck, Mills admits “I was a restaurant virgin.”  She stresses “impeccable customer service and fresh, delicious food and drinks,” at The Summit Room.  The setting is homey, and not the least bit “trendy.”  Using re-purposed wood from the Darden House (originally built in the 1850s) for the table legs, wood from an old tobacco barn for the table tops, a fireplace mantel and tin from a packhouse in Farm Life Township, dismantled by Mills’ Dad, and John Deere green boards “sprinkled” throughout-thanks to the Courtney family.

Dilworth is a family neighborhood and Mills “wants people to feel as comfortable bringing the kids with them as they would celebrating a one-on-one occasion.” Plus she has a six year old who begs for mussels and brussel sprouts, so children are always welcome. Housed on East Boulevard, The Summit Room ably contributes to the area “establishing something in the neighborhood that you can’t find anywhere else.”  Excited to have Brent Martin as executive chef, the cuisine is innovative and southern with an “edge.”  Martin is “young, talented, and a Buffalo guy [who] makes the best grits,” says Mills.

The Summit Room
The Summit Room

The menu changes with the season since they use locally produced ingredients.  Mills considers the BBQ shrimp, the trout, and the pork belly as “standout” dishes, but also suggests trying the kale salad.  If you sit at the bar, never go without the Bertie County Peanuts either.  Aside from the food, there are specialty drinks all named after the seven summits, something Mills didn’’t know existed until climbing Kilimanjaro.  Created with these locations in mind, be prepared to have “fun seasonal cocktails plus a diverse wine selection and locally brewed beer.

Mills has embarked on a new venture but will never forget the children.  A percentage of sales from the Mayobird and The Summit Room are allocated to Behailu Academy.

For more information or to view their menu visit www.thesummitrm.com.