The wood-burning oven is ready to be fired up. Woodworker Capers Cauthen is putting the finishing touches on the handcrafted bartop, and Kevin Johnson is itching to get his kitchen cooking this weekend at The Grocery. But that all depends, as it always does, on inspections happening in a timely and efficient manner.
Johnson is hoping The Grocery will be ready for a soft open next week, just in time for the Christmas Eve crush.
Johnson, the former executive chef at Anson, has been working on the renovation of the massive Altman Furniture space at the corner of Cannon and King for several months now, and it's starting to look like a finished restaurant inside. The interior is a soothing combination of light creams and dark browns with a mash up of farmhouse (beadboard) and industrial (cool lights).
Architect David Thompson has done a fine job carving the big space into smaller, intimate sections. There's the bar area to the left when you walk in the door. To the right is a very big dining area that doesn't feel very big. Beyond that is the private dining room where a large party can take over and have a good time. Along the half-wall in front of the open kitchen is a banquette, which will have a row of smaller tables bookended by two six-tops. The tables were made of reclaimed wood by Landrum Tables.
Once that oven gets cooking, Johnson says they'll be roasting whole fish and chickens. The menu is divided up into tastes/plates/table. Tastes are smaller dishes (not tapas!) that are fully composed bites, just in smaller portions than an entrée. Think 75 percent of the amount and price for a typical entrée. The plates will be where you find things like big steaks and pork chops (priced mid to upper $20s). The table portion of the menu will be dishes (like whole fish and chicken) that a larger group of people can order and share.
"I'm trying to craft a menu so people can experience as much as possible," says Johnson. "I hope the table section of the menu will take off because that's a unique and fun option."
Sides will be in the 8 dollar range and will be of a shareable size. Right now, the ingredient-driven, seasonal menu will have a lot of braises, greens, and roots — perfect for this time of year (but let's hope the cool weather returns).
Johnson is primarily focused on the food, but he's also putting great care into the cocktail and wine program, ensuring that the drink menu reflects The Grocery's philosophy.
"We wanted wine with a story and relevance," says Johnson. So they've stocked the list with a lot of small producers and old, family-run vineyards.
Once they get up and running, the restaurant will be open Tues. through Sat. for dinner. Eventually they'll add weekend brunch and Sunday dinner.