Once upon a time, there was the perfect neighborhood bistro in Wagener Terrace. The locals flocked to it like bees to honey, and it was always jam-packed with patrons grateful for a restaurant located north of the crosstown with reasonably priced contemporary food. It was quickly the hotspot. "What Rue de Jean used to be," people said. Granville's garnered a generous review from the City Paper's Jeff Allen in 2007. He wrote: "Sit out on the covered patio facing Rutledge Avenue and watch the gentrification of the upper peninsula while eating rather upscale food at surprisingly affordable prices, and you won't mind the wait so much."
Despite its popularity, Granville's was beset with operational troubles. Open for brunch and lunch one week, closed the next. You could get prix-fixe family meals on Monday night, until you couldn't any more. The service could also be painfully slow.
A fair assessment, according to new co-owner Chad Murdock, Granville's prince charming who promises that with his influence as front-of-the-house manager, the new Granville's won't suffer the same fate as the old one. It reopened after a nine-month hiatus in May 2009 and then closed again.
"I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't think it was going to stay open," he says. The key is managing the talents of Granville's other owner Trae Wilson, a popular caterer who would find himself overextended, booked for events while still running an increasingly popular restaurant.
"Trae and I have been friends since I was in college, since Granville's was first opened on Beaufain Street," says Murdock. "I worked there briefly and have been in the restaurant business ever since." As a guitarist in the Jody Porter band Astrojet (a reference for you old-timers out there), Murdock moved to New York City for several years, playing in the band and working at such high-end eateries as Jean-Georges, Mercer Kitchen, and Aquavit. "I really honed my skills up there."
He moved back to Charleston in 2006 and went to work for Ken Vedrinski at Sienna. For the last two years, he's been working at Trattoria Lucca, where he ran into Wilson. "He came in and said, 'Do you want to do this?' To me, Granville's has always been a no-brainer, but I had the same doubts as everyone else did. You're gonna be open, right?" But the two hammered out an arrangement that Murdock tactfully says will help keep Trae in an ownership role and not physically running the kitchen.
"We're excited," he says. "We're cleaning it up and adding some new furniture and lighting."
The interior has been repainted, and the ceiling has been covered in burlap, which dampens the noise and makes for a quiet, relaxing environment. "The space looks great. It cleans up nicely," says Murdock.
The menu will focus on simple, American fare. "We're not going to pigeonhole ourselves. We're not Southern. We're not Mediterranean. We're a real neighborhood place."
Menu prices range from $14-$23. Expect to see a burger, a ribeye, and seafood in addition to some snacks and small plates. They've hired Chef Glenn Christiansen to man the kitchen. And the bar is being fully stocked with wine, craft beer, and spirits.
As a way to tie the restaurant to the neighborhood, they'll be letting dogs on the patio, installing a bike rack, and generally being there for the crowds, which means regular hours. To begin with, they'll be open for dinner Mon.-Sat. from 5-11 p.m. Once they nail that, Murdock says they'll consider adding lunch and brunch.
"We're not going to try to reach too far," says Murdock. "The worst thing you can do is offer it one day and pull it off the next."
After a soft opening, Granville's expects to be up and running by the weekend of Sept. 24.