Rob Shapiro, owner of Sweet n Savory Café and the neighboring The Pub at Sweet n Savory, announced last week that the pub will close Aug. 6, making way for a new culinary venture, Epicurean Grille.
“When we took over the building five years ago, the idea was to shift away from Kefi [the previous tenant],” Shapiro said. “But that never really happened, and the space has remained more of a bar than a restaurant.”
Shapiro said he has spent the past year reassessing the concept and looking at ideas for how to shift the focus.
“I’m interested in making food the star of the show, with some great wine and cocktails to go along with it,” Shapiro said. “Epicurean Grille is designed to be a luxurious indulgence of the sensual pleasures of food and beverage.”
Shapiro and executive chef Pete Meriam have created a menu rooted in traditional French and Italian cuisine with a nod to other parts of the globe, including Argentina, Hawaii and the Low Country.
All menu items will be $20 or less, and Shapiro said he and Meriam have gone to great lengths to procure the best cuts of meat, fish and poultry while keeping prices reasonable. Shapiro stressed that steps such as buying and breaking down whole fish and wet-aging prime sirloin steaks ensure the best quality at the most affordable prices.
“A meal should be memorable without costing a fortune,” Shapiro said. “I wanted a $17 steak that people could enjoy on a Monday and not feel like they needed to wait for a special occasion. I wanted to serve a 7-ounce portion of fresh grouper for $20, not a 5-ounce portion, and when we buy the whole fish we can use the whole fish in several preparations, allowing us to keep costs down.”
In addition to the grouper and Argentinean steak with chimichurri, menu highlights include a half-chicken confit and beef en croute, as well as lighter options such as grilled flatbreads, a shrimp salad roll and fish and chips.
Shapiro said he originally envisioned a larger menu for Epicurean Grille, but with Meriam’s insight, he realized that by keeping the menu smaller, it can be executed without taking any shortcuts. Meriam makes his own pasta and cures his own pancetta. He makes all of the stocks and sauces from scratch, and breads will come from Sweet n Savory’s bakery.
The menu can also be modified every three to four months to highlight seasonal offerings and allow Meriam to introduce new dishes.
“This menu will allow us to take the time to do things that you sometimes can’t do in larger volume,” Shapiro said.
He said that while there might be some overlap with the Chef’s Creations section of the menu at Sweet n Savory, he is confident that if the menus at both locations are executed perfectly, there is enough business to go around.
“In a way it’s going to challenge us to step up our dinner service at the cafe,” Shapiro said. “But anything that someone else might put in here would be competition as well, so we might as well challenge ourselves to put out great food in both locations and continue to build our brand.”
Shapiro said he is confident that Sweet n Savory will be in good hands under the direction of general manager Kathy Long and Layne Mac, director of brand authenticity, while he focuses on getting Epicurean Grille, at 2012 Eastwood Road, up and running.
While Shapiro stresses that food will be the star of the show at Epicurean Grille, there will be a 225-bottle wine list, craft cocktails and decadent desserts such as New Orleans-style beignets, pistachio crème brulee, white chocolate bread pudding with orange-Amaretto glaze and tiramisu.
A quick three-day renovation will follow The Pub's last day of business, with Epicurean Grille set to open Aug. 9. Lorraine Barnes, director of operations for both restaurants, has chosen the new decor and will oversee the renovation.
“We plan to change the heart and soul of the building without a million-dollar renovation,” Shapiro said.
Epicurean Grille will open weekdays at 3 p.m. with a limited menu in the lounge from 3 to 5 p.m., followed by dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. The lounge will remain open until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on the weekends. On Saturday and Sunday, the eatery will open at 11 a.m.
Have a tip for Restaurant Roundup? Email [email protected].