Months after shuttering its tucked-away Belle Hall location, The Granary has re-emerged for its second stay in Mount Pleasant.
This time around, the dining room is big and boxy. Seating choices include a bar unfurled in front of the kitchen and, crucially, drivers traveling Coleman Boulevard can see the restaurant from the street.
Chef Brannon Florie also has gained a public partner in Steve Palmer, who during The Granary’s hiatus adopted the restaurant into the Indigo Road family.
A veteran restaurateur, Steve Palmer has celebrated the openings of Oak Steakhouse, O-Ku and Indaco offshoots in Charlotte, Columbia and Atlanta. But prior to teaming up with Florie, his brand didn’t exist on the opposite side of the Ravenel Bridge. So which Indigo Road brainchild did Mount Pleasant get?
There are plenty of clues that the company intended for The Granary to function something like The Macintosh East, with an emphasis on one chef’s sophisticated vision of seasonal vegetables and pig meat. That was essentially The Granary’s concept during its original two-year run. But the wooden panels and exposed brick walls at The Granary 2.0 are red herrings. The restaurant is more like a mod-South redo of O-Ku, offering loud crowds and boorish dishes to diners who a few years back aged out of that sushi-based party zone.
Judging from the suburban scenesters at the bar, their mindset hasn’t changed much in the interim. “You need any waitresses?,” one woman purred provocatively after a male bartender took her order (PSA: In the current employee-starved restaurant industry, that kind of flirtatious small talk could lead to a W-4.) He ignored her, so she closed her check, making space for two men who also looked just old enough to have clear memories of the Nixon administration. One of them sighed. “I like this place better when they’ve got the lady bartenders,” he said.
In the realm of romance, you can’t always get what you want at The Granary. But when it comes to the food, you’re apt to get more than you need.
Crudo is a menu mainstay in the Charleston area, but I can’t say I’ve ever encountered a beeliner snapper crudo quite like what awaited me at The Granary. Grated horseradish was the only hint that the billow of pinkish cream wasn’t an unset Jell-O salad. Indeed, the supposedly fishy pile looked so unsettlingly similar to the ambiguous side dishes in a supermarket deli that I ran an urgent Google image search to determine whether there was an alternative definition of crudo. The Granary apparently pioneered this particular preparation, an innovation which would be easier to swallow if it didn’t involve so much mayonnaise and orange juice.
It’s entirely possible that the crudo was victimized by a mayonnaise-happy line cook: I didn’t see Florie on any of my three visits, which could give the kitchen leeway to run roughshod over recipes in its first frantic months. But I don’t think this was a matter of botched execution. Dish after dish confirmed that heavy and unapologetically fatty are prized attributes at The Granary.
One of the buzzy phrases in the food world right now is “clean eating,” which is a way of describing dishes that aren’t burdened with ingredient-concealing fats, sugar and salt. It’s a somewhat controversial term because it sounds judgmental: It carries with it the implication that people who aren’t knocking back green juice and quinoa are dirtier than those who do.
But when ardent eaters use the adjective “clean,” they’re usually not thinking specifically about morality or nutrition. “Clean” just means “That meal didn’t make me feel like I need to drink three little bottles of Underberg bitters and then roll up in a ball.”
The Granary isn’t aiming for that type of clean, although you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the menu. As a corrective to the crudo, I ordered two more small plates of seafood: One was listed as “shrimp, Thai chili sauce, kimchee puree, cucumber, and daikon salad”; the other as “squid, roasted radish, shishito peppers, banana peppers, and green goddess.”
What the menu failed to note is both the shrimp and squid are thickly battered and fried. There wasn’t so much as a “crispy” to tip off the tempura-adverse. And both the chunky Thai chili sauce and metallic-tasting green goddess dressing lacked the acid that might have made amends.
Relief is concentrated in the menu section titled “vegetables,” although beef bathed in Korean barbecue sauce has even snuck in there, with charred broccoli as its accomplice. Better to focus on the cracker-thin flatbread, undoubtedly popular with the many young families who swarm the restaurant. Like the reliable charcuterie, it’s a totally manageable snack, cleverly spread with curried cauliflower puree. Still, the Granary can’t resist tossing on goat cheese crumbles too, along with teeny-tiny florets of broccoli and cauliflower.
Maybe the kitchen doesn’t want to spoil customers’ appetites for unevenly cooked pork chops or confit-stuffed gnocchi afloat in an absurdly rich broth, but a bibb salad was weirdly small too. It’s a lovely salad, dressed with the appropriate amount of tangy buttermilk dressing, and perked up by slivers of pickled red onions that contrast nicely with milky bits of Clemson blue cheese. The sugared pecans are perhaps a touch too sweet, but the experience is ultimately soured by the price: $9 is really too much for half a cup of lettuce with a few nuts; two sheer pear slices and a drizzle of ranch.
For sweetness, I’d rather stick with dessert: A toasted slice of banana bread erased my disappointment over the near-raw turnips and potatoes paired with a dry short rib. Warm and caramelized at the edges, the sturdy, hearty bread was garnished with vanilla ice cream and pistachios. Those extras were all the dessert required, but since I was seated at the bar on that visit, I was also offered an off-menu dessert drink to go with it.
The cocktail was mixed from Striped Pig spiced rum; Six & Twenty Carolina cream, a cream-flavored rum with bourbon whiskey; and egg whites. It was the antithesis of a digestif. But considering The Granary’s instant popularity, and how strongly it’s resonated with diners, it seemed only appropriate to raise that glass to the new restaurant’s success.