After establishing Southern spot Birds & Bubbles and culinary salon City Grit in New York, chef Sarah Simmons returned to her hometown Columbia to open Rise Gourmet Goods and Bakeshop with local pastry chef Charley Scruggs. Now, Simmons has a bigger project in mind for the South Carolina city with Aaron Hoskins, her partner and culinary director for City Grit Hospitality Group.
Hoskins joined Simmons for the opening of Rise, and while in Columbia, an idea hatched. Simmons explains,
We fell in love with the community we saw come together during and after the flood. We fell in love with the state of South Carolina and its incredible access to some of the highest-quality ingredients in the country. We fell in love with an old house across the river in West Columbia and our collective imaginations went wild and our next concept was born.
Simmons, Hoskins, and Scruggs plan to open a full-service, fine dining restaurant in a former residence in West Columbia. The tentative name is City Grit Farmhouse. Simmons says, "... we aren't 100% set on that. We have agreed that we want City Grit to be a part of the name because, as the City Grit brand has expanded, we think its still important for the brand to have a brick and mortar home. Also the two of us [Simmons and Hoskins] actually met because of City Grit, so it seems fitting for the brand to somehow be a part of what will be our flagship restaurant."
... elevated Southern classics, as well as sophisticated twists on familiar global dishes.
Simmons describes the forthcoming a la carte menu as reflective of her style — "elevated versions of Southern classics, as well as sophisticated twists on familiar global dishes." In addition to the al a carte menu, Hoskins will lead the culinary team to create tasting menus "highlighting South Carolina's rich and bountiful products sourced exclusively from local farms and purveyors."
On Fridays and Saturdays, they plan to offer an afternoon tea (multi-tiered trays of treats and tea cocktails). They also want to bring back Sunday suppers, similar to the ones hosted at City Grit (three-course meals served family-style, paying tribute to dishes reminiscent of Sunday meals from childhood).
The collective vision is to "serve food simple enough to enjoy every day with an elegance typically reserved for a special occasion."
... striving to be the best fine dining restaurant in Columbia ...
To get a better idea of what the menu may look like, take a look at the list of offerings for the recent James Beard Foundation diner from Simmons and Hoskins. Simmons explains,
The canapés passed during the cocktail hour are inspired by the tasting menu we're planning. [The pieces will] highlight four amazing South Carolina ingredients — pork, peanuts, rutabaga, and carrots. The cocktails are proudly made with spirits produced by our friends Ann [Marshall] and Scott [Blackwell] from Charleston's High Wire Distilling Company with the Sweet Tea Smash as a preview to the kind of "tea" we'll be serving during afternoon tea.
The main courses are familiar to most — wedge salad, Lowcountry boil, beef stew, and the good old Southern favorite, chicken and pastry — but we're taking an elevated, yet whimsical approach to these familiar dishes. We hope to not only surprises and delights each guest but also make the diners of Columbia more comfortable in a fine dining setting. While we are striving to be the best fine dining restaurant in Columbia, we want to also be known for the most comfortable and fun experience in town.
In addition to the full-service restaurant, the group also wants to build a venue on site available for private dining, special occasion celebrations, and weddings.
Keep an eye here for updates on the West Columbia project.