Spring has sprung, and restaurant menus all over town are reflecting the change in season. Some have already transitioned their menus, while others are planning to roll out new entrée lineups in the coming weeks. Expect to see fresh peas, asparagus, mushrooms, beets, ramps, mint, and basil.
Unfortunately, peaches, which are typically spring and summer mainstays of Southern cuisine, are not likely to have the same prominence on menus because of the late freeze and hail damage wiping out much of this year’s crop in the Upstate.
The weather’s effect on other local crops has caused many chefs to rework their menus and some have delayed their release until later in the spring.
But, despite those setbacks, the season of rebirth will be well represented in local dishes.
American Grocery Restaurant
Chef Joe Clarke has been a busy man, opening up a new bar, Vault & Vator, along with keeping things fresh at AGR.
New spring appetizers include grilled white asparagus with a sunny-side-up farm egg, preserved lemon breadcrumbs, and pickled ramp aioli, and cured pork cheek with goat cheese gnocchi, peas, arugula, and mint.
“On first glance, pork might not scream ‘spring,’ but he is balancing the meat with the spring flavors of peas, arugula, and mint,” says Becky Tanenbaum of Mise En Place Public Relations, who represents AGR.
The rabbit, one of their most popular entrees, gets a spring reboot. It’ll feature confit of local rabbit with bacon lardons, spring vegetable ragout, and Reedy River Farms spinach.
Chef Greg McPhee is switching things up in the Village of West Greenville, almost weekly.
“We’re changing it again next week,” he said while handing over the current menu.
Basically, don’t get too attached to any menu items, but rather, approach the dining experience as a possible adventure. And dine early and often to fully appreciate McPhee’s range of skills, which are starting to garner national attention.
Beets, peas, greens, sunchokes, and radishes are starring in his dishes lately alongside Carolina sheepshead (a saltwater fish found year-round in South Carolina coastal waters) and suckling pig, among other proteins. But it’s clear veggies are the star of the menu.
Bacon Bros. Public House
The inspiration for chef Anthony Gray’s new menu that debuts April 10 is the desire to keep things as locally focused as possible.
“I want to showcase Greenville across the board,” he says. For example, vegetables are coming from Reedy River Farms, Crescent Farm, and Bioway Farms, among others. Dairy is coming in from Blue Ridge Creamery and Whispering Pines. Rabbit is being provided by the Lazy Farmer, Greenbrier, and Bethel Trails; Johnson Creek and Carolina Heritage farms are providing pork; and chicken is coming from Johnson Creek farms.
“I’m standing outside feeling the weather and getting excited about all the veggies,” Gray says.
All of these local ingredients will be used to create numerous new dishes, including pork belly bulgogi, crispy pork tail, and rabbit carnitas on scratch-made tortillas. New sandwiches and mains include a hot chicken sandwich, Italian hot ham sandwich, Red Ranger chicken, country ham-wrapped rabbit, and fried catfish.
Also, on the weekends, look for Louisiana boiled crawfish that Gray says has been selling out, and some wagyu beef and dry-aged beef on the menu and specials.
Dive N Boar
Vegetables take center stage in chef Adrian Carpenter’s updated menu. New dishes include a green pea and mozzarella arancini snack; blistered asparagus with pickled shrimp and smoked paprika aioli; fava bean succotash; and artichoke panzanella (country bread, tomatoes, capers, fresh basil). Larger plates include a strawberry and golden beet salad; crispy frog legs; and duck leg confit with wilted spinach, black currants, soft cooked eggs, and warm chorizo vinaigrette.
Chef and owner John Makkas says his farm-to-table Greek restaurant will be adding more vegetarian dishes along with a selection of rosé wines for sipping on the patio.
Tupelo Honey Café
The new menu rolled out on March 30 is a change for the Southeastern chain. After months of testing and narrowing 70 dishes down to the final 14, executive chef Eric Grabrynowicz is taking some risks with new entrées like organic venison with foie gras dirty rice, small plates like roasted and raw carrots (watercress, hatch chilis, beet juice reduction, saffron buttermilk dressing), and a completely vegetarian dish (cauliflower steak with chili oil, parsnip purée, quinoa, beech mushrooms, rainbow chard). But he’s also appealing to the less adventurous diner with some playful takes on standard dishes, such as sweet tea-brined and roasted half chicken with a grain mustard sauce.
“I want to pay homage to Southern cuisine in a playful but respectful way,” Grabrynowicz says.
Grabrynowicz says the restaurant listened to customer feedback, some of which indicated the menu didn’t have enough healthy options.
“We now have four salads, and we’re very vegetarian-friendly and veg-focused,” he says.
UP on the Roof
Chef Eric Omick’s Pacific roots continue to show in three new dishes: mini lobster roll, herb crème fraiche, pickled fennel, Crystal hot sauce, brie cheese, and Applewood smoked bacon; papaya salad, butter lettuce, goat cheese, bourbon bacon, curried yuzu vinaigrette, and fried onion; and pan-seared day boat scallops, ahi sweet potato cake, soy sake butter, and spring herb salad.
Table 301 restaurants
Nose Dive, Passerelle, the Lazy Goat, Jianna, and Soby’s chefs have new dishes planned in the coming weeks. The highlights from Gina Boulware, director of marketing and public relations:
Passerelle is serving a new salad of pickled strawberries and fromage blanc (arugula, fennel, toasted almonds, and honey-black pepper vinaigrette).
The Lazy Goat has changes coming shortly that will feature as much local produce as possible, including local tomatoes, radishes, leafy greens, beans, and peas. The focus may lean more toward dishes from North Africa, Spain, and Morocco.
Jianna chef Michael Kramer planned his opening menu to feature more spring produce since he knew that would be appropriate to the restaurant’s opening timing — dishes like the Casarecce Pasta (lump crab, asparagus, lemon, and chile flakes) and the Acquerello Carnaroli Risotto (asparagus, tomato, parmesan).
Other restaurants to keep an eye on for seasonal changes:
Stella’s Southern Bistro and Stella’s Southern Brasserie
Golden Brown & Delicious