For foodies, there are flavors-of-the-month. There are unsung stars, those people and places that are critically acclaimed but don't really catch on for one reason or another. And then, there are legends.
Around the turn of the century (20-21), there was a place called 33 Liberty. It was a tiny restaurant in a sort of ratty strip center, at 33 Liberty Drive. Run by New Orleans couple, John and Amy Malik, the place became a regular stop of aficionados from about a 100 mile radius. It seated maybe 30 people. And the menu was usually limited to less than a handful of choices, based on what John and Amy were able to procure that day. But 33 Liberty was hand-crafted, just-for-you, artfully-prepared-and-presented magnificence!
Sadly, it did not survive the great recession. Foodies have been grieving ever since.
A few years later, some young folks, including chef Aaron Manter and his wife Justi (along with chef Joey Fazio) started a place called The Owl. It had a bit of a hipster groove. Their offerings were sort of a combination between high-cuisine, cuisine du marche, Southern nouvelle, and a high school chemistry experiment (poached eggs at the lowest possible temperature, creating a custard texture, for example). The Owl got its name because of the owl relief sculpture on the front of the Used-to-be-a-Pizza-Hut building. Rather than wrestling with bureaucrats and dealing with signage ordinances, they just called themselves The Owl, left the sculpture, and never put up a sign. It was experimental, entrepreneurial, edgy, hip, and a little too chic for the mainstream.
Late last year, The Owl announced that it would be moving to the Wild West End. That would probably be a better home than Wade Hampton Blvd., down there near all the artists, blues players, furniture painters... the tattooed, pieced, ripped, distressed, dyed, spiked, and leather clad... the Columbus Avenue of Greenville. And we hope it really happens.
Since then, there have been rumors of a food truck. We're very excited to see what these young folks do next, because they may be the most interesting cuisine mongers on the Greenville restaurant scene for a very long time-maybe since 33 Liberty. Which returns us to our point of origin.
The other evening, we were grabbing a quick bite at Genevieve's, just before a show. I looked over, and who was prowling the perimeter of the dining room, as if he was running the place...but John Malik! He looked great in the setting, but I honestly thought he was just there for dinner, and was so comfortable in restaurants that he looked in charge wherever he went.
Then, he came over to say hello. And we learned that John is working with Genevieve's to make it HAPPEN. And, he's working with guess who as his chef...
Aaron Manter from The Owl! Two legends, from two generations of Greenville foodies. How often do you see that at a performing arts patron's lounge? Apparently the Peace Center's commitment to great performance quality even extends to their small plates. It's going to be fun to see what these guys do. Fun and tasty.