Al and Martha Rasche were very familiar with the grand 1895 Victorian home at 104 Broadus Ave. They passed it often going to church at Fourth Presbyterian Church across the street and through visits to Greenville. When the home (originally built by textile mill owner Charles E. Graham) came up for sale in 1981, they jumped on the opportunity and soon settled on the idea of opening a high-end restaurant in the elegant mansion.
However, the vine- and wisteria-covered home had suffered neglect and ultimately ran up a renovation bill over $1 million. Original hand-cut rock maple parquet floors and stained-glass windows were restored along with the fireplaces that adorned each room. The grand ballroom that originally occupied the top floor was made into functional offices. For the Seven Oaks dining space, six rooms with 14-foot ceilings were decorated with furniture in the late 19th-century French style, and tables were covered with white tablecloths.
The cuisine was decidedly French (with touches of northern Italian influence) and rightly so, as Executive Chef Robert Plantadis was a classically trained Frenchman who was perhaps the first chef in Greenville to bring a fully farm-to-table concept to the menu. A local newspaper reported that the chef developed relationships with area farmers and took a hands-on role instructing the farmers how he wanted the cattle, pigs and chickens to be fed and slaughtered to yield the most tender and flavorful meats. When the meat and seafood arrived, he would butcher them into portions himself.
Various French breads were baked fresh daily and served to each guest upon arrival. Dinner entrees that graced the early menu included veal scallopine, crustaches en brochette and lobster thermidor. At lunch, guests could choose from such dishes as cannelloni au gratin (all pastas were made in-house as well), poultry supreme and red snapper vesuvio. To finish off the experience, desserts, of course, were also all made from scratch.
By 1985, Seven Oaks saw high-end downtown dining competition rise from The Commerce Club on the top story of the new U.S. Shelter building. After five years of the hectic yet rewarding life of running a restaurant, the Rasches decided to move on and sell the restaurant.
Kiyohiri Tsuzuki bought Seven Oaks as his first Greenville venture into the food-service industry. He came from Japan to start a textile mill, TNS Mills, in Blacksburg, South Carolina, in 1967. New chef Bill McKenzie continued to serve an American-centric menu with favorites that included grilled veal chop with sun-dried tomatoes, filet mignon, tournados Tazewell II and roast duckling. Soon the restaurant boasted the most extensive wine list in South Carolina. Countless locals made lifetime memories and celebrated significant occasions there such as anniversaries and proposals.
As competition grew and tastes changed, a 19-year tradition of dining at Seven Oaks ended in early 2002. The home has been beautifully restored and is now the home office for Family Legacy financial planning.