Park Cafe will expand its dining room and add kitchen space with big summer renovation – Charleston City Paper

You may have noticed the whimsically painted food truck outside The Park Cafe. The truck (which used to live at Pour House) will serve as a prep space for Park’s kitchen staff over the summer during a much needed restaurant glow-up.

Park Cafe operating partner Xan McLaughlin says starting June first (ish) they’ll take out the buildings in the back (see photo below) where they prep and have their walk-in and this summer they’ll prep in the food truck as the back of the restaurant gets built out. The kitchen will operate as usual. Then in the beginning of August, once the “shell” is complete out back, they’ll close the restaurant for about three weeks to finish up before the busy fall season.

McLaughlin says he got in touch with his friends at Artist & Craftsman to see if they could find someone to doll up the truck and they connected him with local artist Rachael Nerney.

“She agreed to do it and I didn’t see any of her work before then,” says McLaughlin. Turns out, Nerney was already creating works that emulate the essence of the cafe — quirky still lifes of avocados, eggs, fresh fruit. “It was 100 percent perfect, serendipitous.”

While the truck — named Juniper, of course — draws the eye to the front of the restaurant, construction will be going down in the back.

The orange highlighted space is what's getting knocked out and improved, folks - BOARD OF ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW SCREENSHOT

  • Board of Architectural Review screenshot
  • The orange highlighted space is what’s getting knocked out and improved, folks

Before it was the neighborhood haven we all know and love, The Park Cafe was Granville’s Cafe, and for a short time, Biggie’s Gastropub. When Karalee Fallert and McLaughlin took over the space in 2014, McLaughlin says it was only about a five week turnaround before Park Cafe officially opened its doors.

“We took it over and renovated so quickly and now knowing what the soul of our business is we’re ready to refine that look a little bit more,” says Fallert. “Give it a fresh face, instead of taking Granville’s and putting a dress on it.”

Other than some annual floor painting, this will be the first major reno for the cafe. Already bright, warm, and welcoming, Fallert and McLaughlin plan to keep that feel, but spruce it up a bit. Think knocked down walls; higher ceilings; “classic, earthy, warm” dark wood tables and chairs; new light fixtures; and even more natural light, if ya can believe it. They’ll “take it down to the concrete slab” and re-pour a thin layer to get “the whole thing level between the patio and inside.”

click to enlarge So long, plant wall, hello, high ceilings - PROVIDED

  • Provided
  • So long, plant wall, hello, high ceilings

“We’re adding 30 seats, pushing everything back, the side wall by the booths will come out, we’ll add four seats to the bar, open everything up,” says McLaughlin. He says they’ll be able to do a lot more events, seating up to 90 people instead of 50 — they’re actually booked through 2020 with events. Ever since the cafe ended dinner service in summer 2017, they’ve been hosting a helluva a lot of parties, with a full-time event coordinator on staff.

Even with the new and improved look, don’t expect dinner service to come back any time soon. Between, as Fallert notes, a talent shortage, market saturation, and the emotionally draining ask of staffing and serving three meals a day, they’re gonna stick with breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch for now.

“We’ll know when it’s right to decide to open for dinner,” says Fallert. “There are some things … we need to reap the rewards of our work before that would feel comfortable.”

The fate of the plant wall is still up in the air — it’s a lot of upkeep — but the fate of the food coming out of the kitchen, and the wait time for said food, is certain.

“It’s been a challenge, thankfully we’re busier than we ever thought we’d be,” says McLaughlin. “We’ve pushed the limits of this building, serving 400 people on a Sunday out of a 400 foot kitchen, it makes so much sense [to expand], when there are people waiting regularly.”

“Chef Pat has just blossomed in an amazing way,” says Fallert.  “Xan and I want him to have all opportunities to explore what he’s capable of.”