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Block Party

Meet the neighbors: Sweet Grass and Escape Alley Sundry.



Cooper-Young continues to expand its restaurant repertoire with the addition of Sweet Grass, a "low-country" restaurant opening at the corner of Cooper and Young.

Low-country cuisine comes from the Carolinas and surrounding area — as does the name Sweet Grass, which is a regional marshland plant used to weave baskets and hats. Chef Ryan Trimm, formerly of Grove Grill, spent a few years in Charleston, South Carolina, going to culinary school at Johnson & Wales and working in a local restaurant. He describes the food as a "coastal African and Cajun blend with Southern ingredients and a French technique."

The Sweet Grass menu will offer small, medium, and large plates with prices ranging from $10 or less for small plates to $25 or less for large entrées. Glenn Hays co-owns the restaurant with Trimm, and like Hays' Café 1912, Sweet Grass will keep wines at a lower price and will forego white linen tablecloths and busboys to keep prices affordable. "People are surprised to know how much those things factor into the cost of their meal," Trimm says.

As for how Sweet Grass will fit into the Cooper-Young community — an area already teeming with restaurants — Trimm emphasizes the variety of cuisines represented there. "We're all different, and competition breeds business. I think we'll complement each other," he says.

Sweet Grass will bring something new to the table with its take on Carolina eats: Charleston oyster stew with Yukon gold potatoes, Benton Farms smoked bacon, and scallop cream; low-country chicken jambalaya with okra, Benton Farms country ham, and Carolina gold rice; braised Newman Farms pork osso buco with collard greens, smoked bacon, shiitake, grits, and bourbon peach butter; and deep-dish sour-cream apple pie, a recipe from Trimm's grandmother.

The official opening is set for April 8th. In the meantime, they're procuring liquor and beer licenses and a Project Green Fork certification and also finishing up a few decorative details (including stained glass windows from the Glass Menagerie in Hernando, Mississippi). The space is painted a warm, sunny yellow and an earthy green, and the walls will be filled with work from local artists.

Initially, Sweet Grass will be open for dinner only, but Trimm hopes to open for lunch soon after.

Sweet Grass, 937 S. Cooper (278-0278)

New downtown-hangout hopeful, Escape Alley Sundry held its grand opening last Friday. A sundry store sells a variety of items, and Escape Alley offers not only gimcracks and antiques (like a stainless-steel commercial ashtray and an old bike chained to the ceiling) but also sundry eats.

Hot-dog lovers will appreciate the jumbo all-beef hot dog, all the more exciting for its long list of available toppings: cheese, onion, tomato, slaw, sauerkraut, horseradish, dill relish, beef and bean chili, Chinese mustard, Cholula hot sauce, chili garlic sauce, and more. The rest of the menu includes an assortment of items like beef tamales, natural peanut-butter sandwiches, shrimp cocktail, and nachos. The sundry serves beer but also accepts BYOB, with a small set up and corkage fee.

With a theme like "Have fun or get out!" Escape Alley is certainly aimed at a laid-back crowd, and just to grab a beer there is an experience.

The entrance is tucked away behind the club Escape on Marshall. The sundry only takes cash, but there's an ATM available inside. As we move into summer, Escape Alley's free WiFi and air conditioning might make it the perfect hangout. They are open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Escape Alley Sundry, 651 Marshall


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