It's taken them a long time, but Jacques Larson and Doug Godley, the team behind Wild Olive, have completely transformed the old Atlanticville on Sullivan's Island into a modern, nautical restaurant that seems perfectly suited for the beach.
If you remember Atlanticville, it was a bit ramshackle with a side porch and an interior broken up into dark rooms, but it was also popular for a long time, drawing diners all the way from downtown for its casual brunches and Thai Tuesdays. Hold on to those memories, because you won't recognize the place that it's become. The Obstinate Daughter is set to open later this week (check Open Table on Wednesday), and we got a sneak peek of the eye-popping renovation.
The restaurant was designed by architect Reggie Gibson, who Larson describes as a one-man show when it comes to details like picking light fixtures and other decor. The walls and ceilings in the open dining room (supported by massive steel beams) are reclaimed wood, providing a weathered setting with nautical details, like ropes and monkey fist knots. The tiles on the wall in front of the kitchen were reclaimed from France while the blue subway tiles in the kitchen were left over from another project.
Larson worked closely with design consultant Russell Stilwell to plan the kitchen and is thrilled with the results. "I almost feel guilty for being paid to work here," he says. The cooks describe it as a treehouse. From their vantage point, they can see out all of the windows — they even have windows in the kitchen — which look out over a thatch of oak trees.
The centerpiece of the kitchen is the island, which Larson describes as the most civilized way to cook. "Everyone faces each other," he says. "And it just fosters a team approach to cooking."
His team at Obstinate Daughter will be headed up by Chef de Cuisine Will Fincher, formerly of Monza. The two got to know each other over the years by eating in each other's restaurants. When Larson and the staff from Wild Olive would show up for pizza, Fincher would serve them all sorts of treats. "They'd come in, and we'd try to make them hurt from eating so much," laughs Fincher. In return, he would eat at Wild Olive as often as he could. Larson says they are stylistically similar in their approach to food.
While we were there, Fincher was sending dishes out to the chef for tasting and feedback. Here's a little salad he was working on.
Larson has lots of toys to play with here, including a plancha for searing seafood and a La Marzocco espresso machine.
Le Creuset has outfitted them with plenty of colorful cups and dishes, so much so that Larson jokes he will do anything for them, anytime, anywhere.
The menu, which is still being fine-tuned, will have pasta, pizza, and fresh seafood — peel and eat shrimp, grilled octopus, stone crab claws. Depending on the season and the availability, choices will change sometimes hourly. "The chalkboard will be a living, breathing concept," he says. Instead of a traditional app/entree/dessert menu, OD will embrace the small plates trend, and everything will be priced $20 and below. And no, even though they're anchored in Italian traditions, they won't be serving chicken parm — so don't even ask. "That's not part of our game plan," says Larson. "We're going more classic in scope."
General Manager Jonathan Bentley was found after an intensive search that had Wild Olive manager Jason Parrish conducting more than 60 interviews. Last fall, Bentley and his family moved to Charleston from Falls Church, Va. where he managed Pizzeria Orso. He had no job lined up when he arrived. "He fell from the sky," says Larson, and they snapped him up to manage OD.
The bar, a luxurious leathered white marble, will have six local beers on tap at all times along with two on-tap cocktails — probably a Dark and Stormy and a Pimm's Cup, says Larson. The wine list, put together by Parrish, is mostly southern Italian to go with the seafood-centric menu.
Ultimately, Larson's goal for the restaurant is to be a value-oriented destination restaurant, and considering what he's been able to do with Wild Olive, we think he's got a pretty good shot at delivering just that.