Locals Flock to Roost | Food Newsfeed
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Locals Flock to Roost

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An airy design and atmosphere attract diners seeking Southern tastes with a city twist.
By Ellen Koteff August 2014

Roost serves patrons something they don’t get in most places: rules.

“Our Rules of the Roost are quite simple,” the menu of the Greenville, South Carolina, restaurant emphatically states. “We will provide our guests with food that is tastefully crafted, humanely raised, mindfully sourced, and fairly priced.”

Situated about halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina, Roost blends an urban sensibility with Southern sincerity, reflected in its chic design and commitment to the local economy. Located on the ground floor of the Hyatt in the heart of downtown Greenville, Roost has attracted a strong local following since opening in January 2013, right on the heels of an extensive renovation of the hotel.

“We have had tremendous support,” says general manager Carey Lapidus. “From the moment we opened the doors, we have been embraced by families, business people, couples, and large parties.”

With its warm interior featuring blond wood tones, limestone, an open kitchen, and an expansive, urban ambiance, Roost’s design showcases its large bar, which has become the hip hangout for young professionals. Designed by Atlanta-based Johnson Studio, Roost also has movable walls that open to the town square where bands often perform.

A community harvest table positioned directly in front of the open kitchen proffers a tasting menu, and guests can also sit at the counter to interact with the chefs as their food is being prepared.

“Roost is open, comfortable, and bright, and it’s almost like three different restaurants in one,” Lapidus says. In addition to the main dining room and a roof atrium that overlooks the lobby, the restaurant boasts an open, airy patio that seats 80.

All told, Roost can seat up to 290 people, and on busy nights often does two table turns. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and supper—the menu doesn’t use the word dinner—365 days a year. Hotel guests account for 90 percent of business during breakfast, though at other times of day, hotel guests number closer to 10 percent with the bulk of visitors being drawn from near and far.

Since its inception, Roost, which is owned by JHM Hotels and employs about 100 people, has purchased only local products. “We source everything within 420 miles,” Lapidus says. Under the direction of executive chef Trevor Higgins, Roost has forged several partnerships with local purveyors.

The concept, creation, and design of Roost are largely credited to Michael Rosen, who is JHM Hotels’ vice president of food and beverage. His own rules include a ban on high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats. Rosen’s aim was to create a restaurant where farm to table was affordable and, judging from Roost’s reception, Rosen has managed to do that.

Roost has earned rave reviews for its sophisticated comfort cuisine. Higgins brings Southern sensibility with a twist to such dishes as Crab and Tarragon Funnel Cake with honey and bacon powder and Sous Vide Country Pork with chocolate barbecue. Top-selling supper items include Miriam’s Meatloaf, with roast garlic whipped potatoes, black cherry barbecue, and crispy onions, and Cobblestone Chicken with lemon-arugula stuffing and fall vegetable succotash.

There is also a smattering of street food on the menu, done up Southern style, such as Twice Fried Korean Wings and Warm Chili Queso Fondue.

Roost’s beverage offerings, which include craft cocktails, are quite extensive and also pay homage to local products whenever possible. Its wine program focuses on small-batch wines from domestic vineyards using sustainable, biodynamic, or certified organic growing methods. Beer selections include craft brews from Oskar Blues Brewery, Foothills Brewing Company, and Dogfish Head. Roost’s tap system, or Yeti Tower, keeps the lines at 29 degrees Fahrenheit.

Special events at Roost, including Sunday brunch, are served up with some regularity. Patrons are invited to “gather with the flock” at recurring promotions such as Fried Chicken Mondays, Yappy Hour, Musical Festivals in front of the restaurant on Thursdays and Fridays, and The Harvest Table Lunch Buffet served Monday through Friday for $9.99.

At Roost, where the staff likes to say, ‘Birds of a feather eat together,’ there’s never a dull moment. “It’s always hopping here,” says Lapidus. “The restaurant has a great buzz and the energy is great. I absolutely love being on the floor and talking to the guests. They really get into Roost, and it shows.”