The Columbia area saw a number of new entries to restaurant scene in 2016.
We circled back to the owners of several of them to see how things have been going — what’s been working and what have they learned in their new ventures.
Owners: The Allen Siblings: Will, Sarah Grace, Spencer, James, John, George, and Richard
What is your specialty/signature dish? Lunch: The classic Reuben or Adam’s Eve. Brunch: whole wheat Belgian waffle or Z’s quiche
What was the hardest part of opening? The remodel and upfit process. We went through multiple electrical hangups before we found our ace electrician, Tim Lawrie. Thankfully we didn’t go over the allotted time to open, but that final week was intense.
What lesson was learned/advice you would give? Do your research of the area’s needs and desires. We grew up in Irmo, but we spent so much time in Lexington with our grandmother (Momma Rabbit) that we became keenly aware of what was needed for the clientele in this area. Momma Rabbit would have loved a place like Momma Rabbit’s.
Owner: Chris Baldwin
What is your specialty/signature dish? Our signature dishes would include our steaks (grass-fed Meyer Natural Angus from Montana) and our extensive oyster selection. The best-selling sandwich is the Twisted and Dipped (grass fed, grain finished grilled filet with peppered bacon on bakery fresh baguette with rosemary grill confit and fresh spinach, served with beer mustard au jus).
What was the hardest part of opening? Coordination and time. We signed the paperwork to begin construction on Oct. 3, 2015, and then you know what happened the next day (thousand-year flood in Columbia). It took us four or five months longer than I thought it would.
What lesson was learned/advice you would give? Talk to people with experience and use that resource. Those people will give you insight into the process.
Owners: Jody and Richard Kreush
What is your specialty/signature dish? Our specialty of course is warm, giant, gooey, delicious cinnamon rolls--original or covered in strawberries, bourbon caramel , apple cobbler or black pepper bacon maple. Our gourmet breakfast and lunch sandwiches are a close second.
What was the hardest part of opening? The most difficult part was the construction of our building that was in disrepair. The expense was a lot more then we could have ever imagined.
What lesson was learned/advice you would give? Follow your passion wherever it will take you and never give up.
Owners: Blair and Ashley Sims
What is your specialty/signature dish? Buttermilk fried chicken
What was the hardest part of opening? Assembling the staff and building our culture within that.
What lesson was learned/advice you would give? It always costs more than you think it’s going to open and if you haven’t run a restaurant before and know that you love it, you’re taking a big risk.
Owners: Johnny Smith and Karen van Heerden
What is your specialty/signature dish? Tuscan lasagna and tiramisu. Also our caramel, cinnamon and brown sugar bread pudding served with vanilla gelato.
What was the hardest part of opening? Understanding all the permitting and dealing with getting those permits and all the paperwork.
What lesson was learned/advice you would give? Plans never go as you would like them to go, so if you think it will take three months to open double that time at least you will always run in to some difficulties. Also, double your budget.
Owner: Gabe Williams
What is your specialty/signature dish? Detroit style deep dish pizza. We had some guys in Detroit teach us how to make the pizza and we make the dough here. We’ve kind of made it our own. The pizza is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.
What was the hardest part of opening? Preparation and planning. It was very hard (opening the restaurant). If you think you can do something in two months, plan for it to take seven.
What lesson was learned/advice you would give? You will live in the restaurant ... and plan for everything to take twice as long as you think.
Owners: Dan Jaicks and Chuck Lee
What is your specialty/signature dish? The Citadel sandwich: oven-roasted turkey, ham, honey mustard dressing, bacon, lettuce, tomato, swiss and cheddar on toasted wheat, with chips and pickle.
What was the hardest part of opening? The Columbia location is the eighth in the Charleston-based East Bay Deli franchise. Just starting out, Joanna Jaicks, marketing manager for East Bay Deli, said that “just going out on a limb to open the business, taking that leap of faith” was the hardest part.
What lesson was learned/advice you would give? Make sure you have all of your elements in place. A good product, pleasing decor, atmosphere, and customer service. It’s also important that you find a way to give back to the community.
Anything special to come? A new location near Lexington Hospital is scheduled to open late spring/early summer 2017.
Owner: Tim Gardner, proprietor and sommelier
What is your specialty/signature dish? We’re a wine bar specializing in limited production biodynamic, organic and sustainably farmed wines as well as craft beers. We have small plates based on recipes we cultivated while working in Europe. We’re Columbia’s home for Carpe Negre Iberico Bellota Jamon. Our first leg sold out in four days. It literally melts in your mouth.
What was the hardest part of opening? Finishing out the white concrete bar top. It took months of hard work and I owe my brothers, Jeff and Stan, free wine for life for helping me complete it. It was worth it, as it’s beautiful and functional for serving and teaching our clients about the wines we serve.
What lesson was learned/advice you would give? Be grateful. Surround yourself with friends and family who believe in your vision. Hire people you believe are better at what they do than you are yourself. Finally, and probably most importantly, understand that the people in this community are wonderfully supportive. They believe in entrepreneurs willing to take a chance on them. That mindset is why Columbia is on the brink of being the city we all knew it could be. Of course, you’ll always have doubters. But no worries … just use it as fuel to change the world.