On a quick trip to Staples in the Whole Foods Plaza in Mt. Pleasant I noticed activity from a long since vacant restaurant Coco’s. I peeked in to see a welcoming, contemporary restaurant with a fairly busy lunch crowd and decided to investigate a little more.
Reading the menu posted on the window interested me enough to come back and try the place for dinner.
Arriving at 6:00 p.m. on a rainy Thursday evening, the restaurant was somewhat empty but we were about to see that change rather quickly.
Upon entering Graze we were met by a very welcoming hostess who was going to seat us, but we decided to sit at the bar instead. The bar was empty, and Mike, the bartender was happy to see us.
A little bit about Mike… Many moons ago, too many to count, I was a bartender. One of the “non-negotiables” of the place that I worked at was that you had to introduce yourself to customers and find out their names. It was literally a terminable offense not to introduce yourself and we took it seriously.
Since vacationing here over the last 5-6 years we’ve eaten at many places and often at the bar. NO ONE has ever introduced themselves or asked us our names. I have often found that very odd as it opens dialog and provides the opportunity for suggestive “up” selling. But low and behold, Mike did.
To me, Mike seemed to be the ideal bartender and employee. He knew all about the start up of the restaurant (more to follow), all about the specifics of the menu (if he didn’t he ran to the kitchen to find out), was chatty, but not obnoxious and had a great personality to boot. They are lucky to have him.
Mike explained that the two chefs and General Manager that had worked together for six years at a local restaurant decided to go out on their own. They, along with Mike, and four or five servers (and a few new hires), opened Graze about eight weeks ago. The restaurant has chosen to do very little advertising and this “soft opening” has proven to be very successful. Mike mentioned that they were much busier than they imagined they would be this early in the game. But it is no secret why. Their food is unbelievable.
We started with a 3-Cheese Flight. It was moderately priced (as the entire menu is), and was served in what seemed like record time. It included a walnut/brown sugar mix, fresh honey, grapes, Dubliner cheese with a Stout infused rind, Cheddar with cranberries a local farm Goat cheese, apple slices and toasted bread. Mike described this to a “t”, and also brought us more toasted bread when requested. Rarely do I ask for a “to go” box for an appetizer like this, but the cheeses were so extraordinary that I couldn’t resist. Plus I wanted to save room for dinner.
Since our appetizer was served so quickly we waited a few minutes to order dinner. It was also served very quickly. Our selections, Korean Beef BBQ and a Crab cake seem pretty middle of the road, but this was not the case at Graze. The Korean Beef was served with brown rice and a nicely spiced kimchi. The twist is that it is also accompanied by 4”x4” pieces of black seaweed. Mike explained that the chef recommends eating it by adding the ingredients into the seaweed and rolling it up – (like a taco). I could barely get a taste of this, as my husband enjoyed it so much. A wonderful blend of spice, and the flank steak was so tender – just A plus!
After the Cheese Flight I had decided to “downsize” my dinner decision to a Jumbo Lump Crab Cake. They are often dubbed “Jumbo”, but rarely are they served in a portion size living up to the name. Not true for Graze. This was served over a piping hot sweet corn, whole wheat grain, butter bean succotash with apple wood smoked bacon combo. It was also accompanied by a fried green tomato and onion marmalade.
My “downsized” crab cake was the largest I have ever been served. Nice, fresh crab with a terrific texture and flavor it was served on the bean/grain mixture that was to die for. But alas, it was too much to eat, and another to-go container was required.
We met the General Manager and co-owner, Bradford Bobbitt and co-owner Derek Lathan, who along with Michael Karkut also serve as co-executive chefs. We actually met Bradford when he was trying to lean in as we were served our entrees to see if we liked them. He was so close that he scared the heck out of us as we turned and saw him leaning in behind us. He explained that this was his technique to see if customer’s liked their meals since you’d know after the first bite if you did… A humble gentleman who was visiting every table and bar customer in the restaurant (the restaurant was now quite busy).
We wish them all the best and will definitely return. The service and food were excellent and the ambiance was great. The menu is priced very reasonably, will be changing seasonally and offers quite a varied selection.
Welcome to the neighborhood, Graze.