In less than one week, from Jan. 29-Feb. 2, three new notable restaurants opened. That’s becoming more the norm than a rarity these days in Greenville.
This time one is a unique concept in a newly opened downtown hotel, another moved locations across Main Street and expanded its offerings, and the third is a revamp for a successful trendy spot in Travelers Rest.
Luna Rosa Gelato Café
123 S. Main St.
Seven days a week, noon-11 p.m.
It’s so much more than gelato now. Although the vividly hued house-made Italian dessert visible through the storefront windows is reason enough to enter the new location, it’s not the only one. And it actually never was.
The former Luna Rosa space on West Washington Street, at a third of the size of the new one and without a full kitchen, served consistently tasty lunch salads, paninis, and pizzas, but couldn’t handle a full rollout of the family’s Italian specialties.
Now with a new kitchen, indoor seating for about 60, and space for a bar, the full concept with dinner service has been unveiled.
The menu additions from co-owner Linda Schweitzer, known as “Grandma,” are the type of savory, Italian comfort food that will appeal to the masses, which is ideal since the location across from the Westin Poinsett near the Peace Center is one of the most heavily trafficked pedestrian areas of the city.
The dinner must-tries include orzo fritto (orzo, tomatoes, and cheese rolled, breaded, and deep fried, with pink sauce); capellini and meatball with “the family gravy”; shrimp scampi; and braise short ribs in a garlic and onion beef gravy with mashed potatoes.
Also notable is the bar program, envisioned and executed by pink-haired mixologist Jeni Blyth. She brought some of her signature cocktails from her days at Vault & Vator – Melancholy Ninja (Old Forester 86, Fernet Branca, habanero-infused honey, cold brew coffee, orange twist) and Caprese Me Crazy (basil infused gin, strawberry balsamic shrub, lemon juice, honey) along with some new, Italian-influenced additions, such as the Monte’s Mule (house limoncello, Montenegro, lemon, ginger beer, and crushed ice) and a strawberry frozen Negroni dubbed a “frogroni.”
Look for the patio, with seating for 40, to open when the weather turns.
Oak & Honey
Corner of Spring and East Washington streets
Seven days a week, 2 p.m.-midnight
The team of Auro master of mixology Zachary Calfee and newly named executive chef Nicci Hughes, formerly Roost’s sous chef, have created drink and food menus at the newly opened Oak & Honey worthy of the nature-themed glam décor inside the Residence Inn/Springhill Suites dual-branded hotel. With its own separate entrance, the restaurant is a destination. One-hundred-eighty-degree views of the bustling intersection give it a definitive urban feel juxtaposed to the greens and wood tones of the interior.
The menu features a baker’s dozen of small plates and not so small plates. Highlights include the spicy Thai chicken wings, skillet mac ‘n’ cheese, honey jar dips, vegan nachos (as good, if not better than the real deal), and a charcuterie and cheese board that could be a meal on its own. Gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options are available.
Cocktails, created by Calfee and now under the direction of bar manager Hannah Taylor, feature local honey and nature-themed names, and vary in base spirit and flavor profile. Honey, I’ll Be Home Late (Absolut Elyx, aperol, lemon, ginger honey, peach bitters) is served over crushed ice in an Absolut Elyx-branded copper-plated coupe cocktail glass. The pineapple leaf, also branded with the Oak & Honey logo, is an added touch for the optics. Mezcal, lavender-infused Jack Daniels Rye Whiskey, Plymouth Navy Strength Gin, and Plantation Overproof Rum all make appearances.
Several mocktails also make the list if you’re abstaining and sweet tea doesn’t quite fit the bill.
164 D S. Main St., Travelers Rest
Wednesday & Thursday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5-10 p.m.
Though not officially called Rocket Surgery 2.0, that’s essentially what the new concept is for the popular cocktail bar that opened August of 2017 with a slew of crafty cocktails and small bites. Now, that’s gone, though the eclectic décor and sputnik bar lights remain, and fresh pasta is the theme along with a fewer number of classic cocktails.
Regulars will be happy to know, the popular whole-tentacle fried calamari and balsamic Brussels sprouts (slightly tweaked) made the revamped menu. Appetizers like house made ricotta and meatballs are tasty precursors to the seven composed pasta dishes of all shapes and three non-pasta entrees (risotto, roasted chicken, and scallops). Vegetable sides, in addition to the Brussels, are charred broccolini and local foraged mushrooms, which will vary daily in preparation.
Cocktails include gin-based Negroni and Contessa (from Boston’s No. 9 Park), Colomba (a spin on a Paloma), and bourbon-based Paper Plane and Boulevardier.
The desserts are showstoppers, with the salted caramel budino (custard) stealing the spotlight. A citrus semifreddo and chocolate cake are tied for a close second, but certainly not last.
Co-owner Andy O’Mara (of the Sidewall Pizza dynasty and newer Monkey Wrench Smokehouse) says to look for a family-style Sunday supper addition to the days of operation in the future as the staff gets settled into the new menu.