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If you distilled 15 bushels of flint corn grown in the sidewalk cracks of a dozen Southern cities into urban moonshine, packaged it with a stack of deviled eggs and a Moon Pie for dessert, and shipped it out to the anonymous anywhere-of-America suburbia, you’d get a rough taste of what The Granary is all about. If you weren’t convinced prior to arrival that Southern “lardcore” can be replicated within the American landscape with as much success as all-you-can-eat steakhouse buffets, albeit with decidedly delectable results, The Granary will light your way. From pork belly to collard greens to strategically placed ethnic fusion, The Granary is the new Southern restaurant, neatly packaged and ready for export to the ’burbs.
Inside, stylish details such as dark wooden shelves and twists of steel pipe help the space transcend its ho-hum location in the Belle Hall shopping megaplex, and in terms of quality, Brannon Florie’s food lies within watermelon-seed spitting distance of downtown’s trendy farm-to-table fare. Though the restaurant's concept is hardly ground-breaking, Florie’s kitchen executes with admirable skill; the food is largely superb. Upon arrival, you may find yourself admiring a gallon jar of 40 pickled eggs, iridescently golden-hued when viewed through the bubbly tinge of a two-dollar Miller High Life. You’ll stop to peruse the charcuterie cabinet’s deliciously moldy dry-cured sausages and heavenly cured hams. And your mouth will water as a plate of beer-braised clams passes your table with its briny scent of seafood, pickled peppers, and spiced chorizo, or a lofty biscuit puffs its steam from the buttery layers within.
The fact that it practically seems illegal these days to serve beer in an establishment without a full-on house-cured multimodal charcuterie board doesn’t diminish the notion that The Granary’s offerings come expertly crafted and well-presented, complete with mustard and homemade pickles. This is a place where you can gorge yourself on lemon-cherry preserve and veal bone marrow scraped onto toast from half a calf femur while watching a high-brow food documentary on flat screens that flicker behind a long wooden community table stretching the length of the place.
They’ve appropriated elements of Asian and Southern cuisine with fine results, pairing “10-spice” dry-rubbed confit chicken wings with dollops of fermented kimchee and buttermilk blue-cheese dip. The well-crafted cioppino advertises a “white thai” lobster broth (they mean the local Westbrook beer), and a carrot-curry purée finds itself appropriated on a delicious veggie flatbread. But the farther from the South The Granary ventures, the more complicated things become. “Duck”—and perhaps you should—presents a pan-seared breast so overwhelmingly cloyed with red curry-coconut sauce, bok choy, oyster mushrooms, compressed pineapple, pickled daikon, and jasmine rice that it’s hard to discern where the lukewarm compote bifurcates from the flabby duck skin it envelopes.
Nevertheless, the pork belly sandwich would constitute mere genius by simply pairing kimchee slaw and ginger soy with the hot melting fat of local swine; the additional slather of duck liver mousse seems almost criminal in intent. For the Reuben with house-made corned beef, Florie cures an exquisite Wagyu brisket, as much flavorful fat as it is lean. He knows how to scorch Brussels sprouts until they turn deliciously blackened and caramelized and then anoints them with syrup. He makes your grandma’s apple-walnut salad with buttermilk dressing, but pickles the fruit first and gives the red onions a sweet pickle treatment as well. Even if he occasionally stumbles amongst an ambitious pantry, the boy can cook.
The Granary is as at home with haughty renditions of baby beets and goat cheese as it is with down-home greens and molasses. The declarative, objectified name evokes the trendsetting darlings of Upper King, or Brooklyn and Queens farther north. It carries a facsimile of that fashion, a mishmash of celebrant Southern dining in the modern era, to a suburban audience eager to devour juice bars, hot yoga, cold-stone ice cream, and Pilates. Whether those folks will embrace slabs of gelatinous headcheese remains to be seen, but Florie has the talent to give it a good run.
The Draw: Southern “lardcore” distilled for the suburban crowd
The Drawback: Quite the drive from anywhere West of the Cooper
Don’t Miss: Beer-braised clams