GLADE SPRING, Va. — Chef Bradley Griffin firmly believes the quote, “If you cook it, they will come.”
The local chef who’s known for his farm-driven style of cooking at Harvest Table Restaurant in Meadowview and Milton’s in St. Paul, Virginia, is bringing a new food experience to town with high hopes the community will embrace his culinary venture.
In a town that’s lost several restaurants in the past few years, Griffin is so confident the business will thrive that he — along with his wife, Kady Griffin, and his parents, Dean and Janet Griffin — actually bought the town square building that recently housed Clean Eats, which closed last month.
After two days of soft openings this week, Sarah Jean’s Eatery will formally open on Friday, July 12, serving a casual cuisine from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The eatery will be open Wednesday through Saturday, adding Tuesday to the schedule in a few months.
Griffin, who has added several of his family keepsakes to the decor of the restaurant, said the business is named after both of his grandmothers. “My mom’s mother was Sarah, and my dad’s mom is Jean,” said the chef.
“We’re here for the long haul,” said Griffin. “We feel like Glade Spring actually chose us. We got a call from a realtor about this building after looking at another site here in town. We knew when we walked in the door that this was what we needed. It’s a beautiful building.
“We knew Glade Spring could support something like this, so that was always in the back of our minds. We’re committed to being here for a good while.”
The casual cuisine will offer burgers and sandwiches, appetizers and entrees and house-made desserts. “It will be farmers market-driven,” said Griffin. “My menu will change frequently based on what’s in season.”
The restaurant also will be a store front for Bradley’s Wallowing Whistlepig Sauce Co., Griffin’s handcrafted sauces that will be sold at the restaurant, online and at the Glade Spring Farmers Market.
His cooking style, he said, will set him apart from other local eating venues. His farm-to-table menu celebrates produce found at local farmers markets, flavored by many of the herbs and mints he grows at the restaurant.
Customers can see his container gardens at the entrance to the restaurant, where he grows a variety of mints, such as chocolate, ginger and lemon, and herbs including dill, cilantro, parsley, basil and oregano.
“Next year, I hope to have an extensive garden in the back of the restaurant.”
Much of his culinary inspiration comes from his youthful days working in the kitchen at Omni Grove Park Inn and Grand Bohemian Hotel, both in Asheville, North Carolina, and Blowing Rock Ale House in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
“I’m all over the place as far as a particular style, but I like to take fresh produce and apply what I’ve learned,” he said.
“I’m not really afraid to put something different on a plate and push people to experiment with flavors. My philosophy is: Find things that don’t work, and let’s make them work.”
Griffin takes local ingredients and applies what he’s learned as a chef to create some interesting concoctions.
Regular menu items will include trout from Sunburst Farms in Asheville, North Carolina, combined with grits from White’s Mill in Abingdon, both served with a helping of collard greens.
“A typical sandwich may be ham with a special sauce served on house-made bread,” said Griffin. Each of his house-made breads is named after a cast member of the television series “Golden Girls.”
“All of the breads have different personalities.”
He plans to serve kombucha, a fermented, slightly alcoholic black tea made from tea from Table Rock Tea Co. in South Carolina.
And, of course, to honor the history of the building, Griffin will make his own version of a Cherry Smash carbonated drink that was a favorite among the locals when the Central Store operated a generation ago.
“I want this to be a casual dining experience. I don’t want it to feel stuffy,” he said. “We’ll offer local and regional music from time to time.”
Creating a homelike atmosphere, Griffin has added a rocking chair near the entrance of the restaurant that belonged to an aunt, a vintage wooden box that came from his grandparents’ house in Maine and an optical illusion painting of a lion done by his mother. Old photographs of his family will hang on a wall.
“We’re excited about this venture,” he said.
“I truly hope that every guest who walks through our doors feels like family while enjoying a meal at Sarah Jean’s.”