Steve Palmer acknowledges that Charleston could be reaching a saturation point, but he's confident that he and the team behind Indigo Road restaurants Oak Steakhouse, Cocktail Club, O-Ku, and the Macintosh can handle the competition and continue to grow as a company.
"Yes, I am worried about saturation. I'm always worried about saturation," says Palmer. "But I think that hopefully competition makes us all better. As more restaurants open, it forces us to be better."
To up the competition, Palmer and his team are opening an Italian restaurant in the heart of the action on Upper King Street.
He's working with architect David Thompson on Indaco at 526 King Street, a building owned by PrimeSouth that has been vacant for a long time. "There's no roof," says Palmer. "There's barely four walls." Which means the hoped-for late Spring opening (by Spoleto in May) is probably a pipe dream.
The concept for Indaco is rustic Italian. Palmer says he's been thinking about this concept for a while and finally decided to go for it when he and his executive chef Jeremiah Bacon found the perfect guy to helm the kitchen: Robert Berry, a friend of Bacon's and a former Charlestonian who once worked at SNOB with Frank Lee and Josh Hopkins (who went on to Abbatoir in Atlanta).
Berry has been executive chef at the Cookshop and most recently Monument Lane in New York City. He'll be relocating to Charleston in February.
Palmer assures us he's doing something a bit different than what's going on at other peninsular Italian joints. "It's rustic Italian tavern fare with pizza and six pastas. It's not going to be as elevated as what Ken is doing," he says, referring to Ken Vedrinski at the much-loved Trattoria Lucca. "Entrees will probably be $24 and under."
They'll be installing a wood-burning pizza oven and putting plenty of Italian beers on tap. You might even find negroni on tap.
"I've been passionate about this concept for a long time," says Palmer, joking that perhaps his creative side is getting the better of him, but there's one thing the practical side of this experienced restaurateur knows for sure. They need to be good right out of the gate.
"You have to provide the level of food and service that locals expect and provide it right away," he says. "So many restaurants don't get many second chances." Truer words have not been spoken.