Blake Faries is on the move – again.
This time, the talented chef is “looking to settle in for the next 10 years or so” at 116 State.
Last week, Faries joined chef and owner Ryan Whittaker in what Whittaker is calling a “return to the roots” of the popular West Columbia restaurant.
Whittaker has stripped down the menu at 116 State, keeping the Spanish-inspired tapas, or small plates, and adding daily specials that incorporate fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
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“The concept stays the same,” Whittaker said. “The time is right to take a step back and become more managerial and to take what we do well and build on it.
“Some menu items will remain ... the mussels romesco have been there since day one.”
And Faries, whose specialty is the use of bright flavors and local produce in preparing small plates, “is a good fit.”
In his career, Faries has been called in to new restaurants as the opener. “As a chef, I helped open restaurants in the Myrtle Beach area,” he said.
In 2009, Faries was brought in by Kristian Niemi to open Rosso Trattoria Italia in Trenholm Plaza.
“I fell in love with Columbia and decided to stay,” he said.
After Rosso, Faries went to Saluda’s in Five Points, where he stayed for six years before leaving to take a break. He would occasionally serve as a guest chef at special dining events around the city.
Faries returned to the Columbia restaurant scene in early 2016, opening Sea/Salt inside of Nonnah’s in the Vista. The menu featured small plates and a five-course chef’s tasting menu. Tasting menus allow chefs to show off their talents, using super-fresh ingredients in combinations that are not normally found on the daily menu.
In early 2017, Faries left Sea/Salt to join chef and owner Russell Jones and pastry chef Charley Scruggs as chef de cuisine at Tallulah on Devine Street.
Faries said Jones knew he would eventually want to run his own kitchen, and after meeting Whittaker, “everything just clicked.”
For his part, Faries is excited about the move to 116 State. “These guys care so much about their romesco sauce, they’re roasting four pans of tomatoes every night to make the sauce,” he said.
Whittaker said there’s room for Faries’ creativity on the menu at 116 State and now that he is on board, there will be more flexibility in scheduling and hosting wine tastings and special dinners.
“With everything that’s going on (in West Columbia) – the growth – it’s time to refocus and build on the idea of great quality dining in a casual atmosphere.”