The creative cocktail bar Warehouse is still fairly new to the Spring Street scene. They recently saw their first stellar review in the City Paper and are gathering a reputation for tasty libations with imaginative fare. Chef Eva Keilty is the mind behind the kicked up bar food. The co-owners of Warehouse—James Groetzinger and Joey Rinaldi—trusted her vision going forward with their venture, and it seems to have paid off. Eater asks Keilty how the Warehouse is operating after six weeks into service.
Congratulations on the glowing evaluation in the City Paper. How's everything going at the Warehouse?
Thanks! This is our first review. We've only been open six weeks. We opened the first of July to the public, and it's been good. It's hard when you open. One day we're swinging a hammer and the next day we're open. With no time to train, everyone in the kitchen really, really put their heart into it.
With opening any restaurant, it's 100 percent of your day and 100 percent of your life. It's worth it, because, for me, it's more about the guests than it is for myself. There's two types of chefs. There are chefs that cook for themselves, because it makes them happy, and there are chefs that cook for guests. I'm definitely cooking for the guests. But I also like to push boundaries a little. My menu was a bit of a hard sell to the co-owners and it kept evolving. I started off with Warehouse just as a consultant. I got involved with them through Dan [Sweeney] at Stumphouse Design. They were looking for a consultant—they just wanted five small items, some dips, some nuts, some whatever, and over time it grew. And Charleston grew. This area expanded with places like Xiao Bao Biscuit, and the area got hotter than we anticipated. So I said, "If you're going to do a bar, it's gotta be like a fancy Moe's [Crosstown Tavern]." Charleston is exploding, so you have to have a serious food program to make it here. They agreed, and I stayed on.
From there, we started on the menu. I tend to have an eclectic palate, probably from living out in California for so long. I told the owners, I think Charleston is ready to have a bar with interesting, real food in it. So, I pushed for that and it all happened. I wanted to stay true to my vision and to what I thought diners wanted. People are ready to not be faced with the same thing at every single bar.
How has the menu changed in the past six weeks?
My plan, because they owners kept saying, "More like bar food. More like bar food," was to have the core menu, and on the big chalk board we'll do specials once I can get the staffed trained on the set menu. I always say, that if Moe's Crosstown and Two Boroughs Larder had a baby it would be Warehouse. Bar food with a top hat and a monocle. I knew that people would be into it. I had the menu we started with, and now there's always four to five seasonal larger plates. We're expanding the menu a little bit. We're adding a duck noodle bowl with GrowFood Carolina lettuce, rice noodles and a melon salad. I never say I make Asian food, but it will be Thai influenced. It will have a red coconut curry sauce, the duck is confited in sesame oil instead of duck fat, and then it's pulled. That's coming on and we'll have some more sides coming on the permanent menu.
Have you noticed any surprises on how or what people are ordering?
It's funny, the first week people only ordered wings. And then they thought, "Hey, I like these wings," and felt braver to order other things. The lamb merguez sausage meatballs move. The farmer's plate, too. That was a hard sell—that was my Olympus. Kale and a crêpes in a bar? But it does really well. We have nice cocktails, and we have nice beer— people don't want to necessarily eat a burger. I said, "No, no burgers, no." I didn't want to put it on the menu and sell nothing but burgers all the time— it's not my style, it's not how I cook. The owners wanted sliders too, but I don't believe in sliders.
How has the late night crowd been?
You never know what you're going to get. You build it, and you hope for the best. I don't think any of us expected that at 11:00 p.m. we would get bombarded, and there's a 25 person line out the door. So, we were going to do late night food until midnight, but there's so many people in there, it's impossible to serve food. We are getting a ton of F&B people on Sundays and Mondays. We are starting brunch on the 1st.
What will the quintessential Warehouse brunch look like?
Basically, I want it to be ridiculous food. As far as brunch concerns me, it should be almost obscene. For example, our benny [eggs Benedict] is going to change all the time. It won't be a permanent menu. Probably around six to seven items. We'll always have a benny, some sort of wackadoo benny. Like, the first one will be a Cuban one—Cuban pulled pork, French bread, a black bean cake, ham, Swiss cheese, hollandaise, pickles—you know, ridiculous brunch stuff. We'll do an onion ring poutine with lamb pastrami. Complete gluttony. We'll of course have a salad, maybe like a curry chicken salad sandwich. Mostly, you better have a hangover.
What do you want the Warehouse to be known for?
We are a bar, but I want people to know they can eat dinner here. I want it to be known for food that's fun. I'm very passionate and serious about my craft, but it's very important that the food is always fun. I want to make sure the flavors are bold, the flavors are interesting and that everything is serious food that people don't have to take so seriously. I want people to relax and enjoy their meal, don't make it a chore.
· Warehouse Review [-ECHS-]
· Warehouse [Official]