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Columbia restaurateur behind Ristorante Divino, Kingsman bringing new concept to Chapin


A rendering of The Griffin. 

Columbia chef/restaurateur/butcher Henry Griffin is launching his latest concept, a wood-fire pizza pub and grill in Chapin.

Taking his surname, the new venture is called The Griffin and slated for a July 17 opening in a new retail center in the suburb. 

“Chapin is one of the fastest growing parts of the metropolis part of Columbia,” Griffin tells Free Times. “There’s higher income, they’re building more homes, there’s not a lot of places to eat.”

Griffin emphasizes that the restaurant will be his first new concept. He’s having a hand in almost every facet, from the layout to the design.

Griffin plans to offer up a host of to-be-expected options from a pizza pub and grill in Carolina — four to five wood-fired pizzas (mushroom, sausage, margherita, etc.) barbecue, smoked chicken wings and more bar grub. In a hyper-local touch, he plans to source his meat through his other business, The Royal Butcher in Lexington.

The restaurant will feature an open kitchen concept and seat roughly 70 in its 3,000-square-foot interior, along with more seating on its similarly sized, year-round outdoor patio. Griffin plans to serve 10 to 15 beers on tap along with liquor and wine.

He hopes to hire roughly 40 workers for the new spot, and recruit some of those from the local culinary program headed by chef Patrick Dugan at the Center for Advanced Studies. 

“All the restaurants [I’ve done] I’ve inherited,” he explains. “This is from the ground up, a new concept.”

The Griffin adds another restaurant to the restaurateur's portfolio, which already includes The Kingsman restaurants, which he attached to in 2012, and Vista Italian restaurant Ristorante Divino, which he took over with his partners in 2014.

That follows stints in other local kitchens, including one in the now closed Rosso Trattoria Italia when it was run by Bourbon and Black Rooster chef/owner Kristian Niemi. Griffin gravitated toward the pizza oven and the Italian cuisine there, which he says is good for business

“I have a pretty heavy Italian background,” he says. “It’s easier to make money on pizza and pasta. ... Steaks aren’t really cutting it.”

Cuisine aside, the Griffin clearly falls closer in line with his Kingsman concepts than the high-end, white-table-cloth Divino. He says that too is a case of following the money.

“Just the way the world’s going, everything is moving to more fast casual,” he posits. “Black tablecloth and fine dining is kind of losing its steam.”

David Clarey joined Free Times in November 2019 as a food and news writer. He's constantly fighting competing desires to try cooking food at home and spending his entire paycheck on Columbia restaurants.

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