Nearly six months after The Café at Williams Hardware closed, the space that housed the restaurant will become home to another restaurant and gourmet market, this one with deep roots in the Upstate community as well.
The owners of Due South Coffee and Swamp Rabbit Inn have teamed up to open Topsoil Kitchen and Market inside the historic building at 13 S. Main St. in the heart of Travelers Rest. The restaurant will be led by chef, Adam Cooke, who will center the menu on locally sourced products, farm fresh produce. The food, while not exclusively plant-based, will honor vegetables and fruits first.
The restaurant, which will be open daily, serving breakfast and lunch, along with weekend brunch and dinner a few days a week, is slated to open in late June.
Topsoil is a classic example of right partners, right energy, right time. Wendy Lynam, owner of Swamp Rabbit Inn, Patrick McInerney, co-owner of Due South Coffee and Cooke, who has earned acclaim for his culinary passion and creativity all possess qualities that complement each other. Perhaps the story began when McInerney met Lynam at one of her Truck-In Tuesday events. They connected over interest in food and similar dispositions. Their venture began as a farm, started in the fall of 2018, all the while McInerney was seeking a greater outlet for Cooke, who joined the Due South team in the spring of 2018.
Cooke made his presence known with a creative menu of mainly plant-based dishes that pushed the café’s tiny kitchen to the limit. It wasn’t the right outlet, and in the fall, Due South launched Topsoil, a private events food-focused arm.
Topsoil threw several pop-up dinners, all the while McInerney and Lynam and Cooke were talking.
“The concept for the restaurant I’ve had for a couple years,” McInerney said. “But it’s evolved every time someone else has come into the equation and I think we’ve coalesced something that is better than all the other ideas. It’s become something special.”
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On a recent Wednesday, even with no chairs, tables or smells emanating from the kitchen, the space inside Topsoil feels warm and inviting. The floor has a delightful creak underfoot, and the fans spinning from the unfinished ceiling add an air of authenticity. In the back, an espresso machine is already in place, distinct in front of a beautiful white marble backdrop.
When it opens, Topsoil Kitchen & Market will bring a sophisticated approach to familiar food in an atmosphere that celebrates local and comfort. Here, you’ll be able to get an espresso or a seasonal craft cocktail, and a side of biscuits and gravy.
Topsoil will be a fit for what Travelers Rest is seeking and for what the city has become, said the owners of their hope for the new venture, a center of dynamic and creative thinking, where people are still on a first name basis.
The market side will offer what McInerney describes as “the perfect picnic” ingredients — fresh baked breads, homemade jams, cheese, dips and spreads, local produce, biodynamic wines, coffee, local produce and prepared foods. The café will feature a comforting menu of familiar classics and new ones, all made with ingredients sourced mostly from farms in and around Travelers Rest.
Topsoil is among those farms. The farm began before the restaurant and has become an integral and an imperative tool for learning. While the farm will supply some items for the restaurant, it currently serves as a classroom, allowing the owners to seek deeper connection to and understanding of fresh, healthy food.
Topsoil Farms uses no chemicals and a no-till approach to keep the soil healthy.
“You have better food when it grows in better soil,” McInerney said of the lessons they’ve learned through farming.
Cooke is reconnecting with his passion for baking and for bread. The chef, who spent part of his early career in an artisan bakery in Montana, plans to unroll a full daily menu of scratch-made breads, that will be used for sandwiches, French toast and for a selection of seasonal toasts, for which Cooke lay the foundation at Due South.
Topsoil’s menu will take a page from what Cooke originally created at Due South and grow it. Expect egg dishes, biscuits and items from the griddle at breakfast, fresh salads, creative sandwiches and scratch made soups at lunch. While the menu will be largely focused on plants, the owners eschew labeling the restaurant one way or another.
This mindset also fits into their low-waste one, whereby vegetable scraps will be used to make stocks and “ugly produce” not fit for sale in the market will be used in soups.
The owners envision Topsoil is a place where butter, cream and eggs are utilized but are never the centerpiece of a dish.
“We don’t want it to be exclusive to anybody or scary in any way,” Cooke said. “We just sort of want to celebrate plants a little bit more and put a cool healthy twist on a breakfast and lunch café.”
In addition, the restaurant will feature a full bar, with a focus on mostly organic wines, local and regional beers and on fun and tasty cocktails.
When Lynam, McInerney and Cooke are together, they can barely contain their ideas. Each plays off the other painting a picture of topsoil not just as a restaurant, but as an integral piece of the community. There is talk of creating picnics that people could order and take with them on the trail, on a hike or just to have at home and of a curated CSA of local produce, prepared meals and specialty items like wine and cheese.
There is also discussion of creating a special events arm that would include Topsoil-sponsored festivals, live music events and special dinners, as well as a custom catering and events arm that would include both the cafe and the farm.
“It was the right people, the right conversations,” Lynam said. “It all started clicking.”
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