For months the Urban Cookhouse along Devine Street has taunted passers-by with an “opening soon” banner. Wednesday, that wait was over.
The burgeoning Southern chain welcomed its first guests during a soft launch ahead of its weekend grand opening and the response was a resounding lip-smacking success. The restaurant serves up sandwiches like a White BBQ and Chipotle Braised Pork, as well as wraps, salads and more substantial meals.
Elizabeth Brubaker, a pharmaceutical sales rep, was among Wednesday’s guests. She said she’s always in the market for a new restaurant to cater for current and would-be clients. Halfway through her lunch, she was already checking her calendar to see when she could use Urban Cookhouse for an event.
“Doctor’s offices see a lot of reps and we all bring a lot of the same things,” Brubaker said, “so when you have a new restaurant, it helps.”
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Dr. Loretta McKelvey, owner of University Dental, said she and her husband were looking for a restaurant to celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary and learned Urban Cookhouse was open. “I’m honored to be here for the soft opening,” she said. “I’m a member of the Devine Street Association and I’m here to support. My office is not even a block down the street, so I’ve been watching this place. So when my husband said we’ll do lunch for our anniversary, I said let’s go to the Urban Cookhouse. It’s yummy!”
Michele Huggins, president of the South Kilbourne Neighborhood Association and secretary of the Columbia Council of Neighborhoods, thinks the restaurant will bring a lot of new food options to the area. “It’s a young company and I think it’s just going to bring people in. Whether it’s from the high school, the local business or the Five Points community, I think it’s just going to tie them all together,” she said. “And they’re using our local farmers to get their stuff and that’s great. You can’t beat that.”
It’s all thanks to Will Gillespie, president of the company. After growing Zoe’s Kitchen into a popular franchise, he sold the company and partnered with the founders of Urban Cookhouse before acquiring proprietorship in 2014. The Devine location will serve as the flagship for the company, he said. It will be used to test out new menu items and specials, as well as be a host spot for events.
“Devine Street is the perfect mix of our customer base,” said Gillespie. “It’s just a unique, eclectic area. If you drive down this road it feels a little different than everywhere else. I think this is the type of location that we really want people to see as what Urban Cookhouse is to represent going forward.”