Cypress Grille serves up seafood specialties, cocktails and eclectic cuisine from around the globe
Despite the challenging timing of opening in February 2020, The Cypress Grille, located in the ever-expanding region of northeast Carolina Forest, is flourishing with inspired choices for lunch, dinner and cocktails.
“Some days we’re filled to capacity, and we’re grateful for those days,” says co-owner Brian Schwartz with a restaurateur’s weary smile.
Schwartz left the field of golfing to join co-owning partner and longtime friend chef Tyler Rice, who also owns Fire & Smoke in Myrtle Beach. The restaurant has managed to develop a local, loyal clientele, who come for the eclectic menu offerings and charming indoor/outdoor pub-like atmosphere, combined with a fine-dining service model wrapped up in a casual, comfortable package.
Schwartz and Rice became friends 25 years earlier, when Rice was head chef and Schwartz was a wet-behind-the-ears server at the long-gone Old Crow’s Table in North Myrtle Beach. Rice has now had some 35 years in the business, but Cypress Grille is Schwartz’s first foray into restaurant ownership/management since leaving the golfing world behind.
Located off of International Drive, the commercially developed region is in an area that’s seen much rapid growth.
“There was nothing here six or seven years ago,” says Rice, who lives in a nearby Carolina Forest neighborhood. The pair saw an opportunity in 2019 and they decided to move forward. “With all the hospitals and medical industry in the area, we wanted to hit it hard with lunch,” explains Rice.
“We’re American fusion, mostly, but where Fire & Smoke focuses on beef, we have a lot of seafood dishes,” continues Rice, finding it difficult to really describe the all encompassing menu in just a few words.
“We don’t do just one thing here,” he adds. “We’ve got Lowcountry dishes, food from the Pacific Rim, French cuisine, really a bit of everything.”
Chef Rice was classically trained under a French chef for whom he worked for five years in his native Pennsylvania. His love for a wide variety of flavors and culinary traditions is obvious with one look at the menu, and that even includes lunchtime specialties.
With sandwiches, salads and burgers averaging around $13, patrons can enjoy exceptional lunches at a reasonable cost. The tri-tip beef sandwich features smoked tri-tip, caramelized onions and a rum molasses BBQ glaze on a Ciabatta bun with garlic cheese curds. It’s as good as it sounds. The hot pastrami (cured and smoked Wagyu brisket) on marbled rye with Swiss cheese, house-made slaw and Russian dressing is straight out of Brooklyn and melts in your mouth. The Burgundy Burger features cremini mushrooms, black garlic aioli and Gruyere cheese.
Small plates abound and include house biscuits, charred smoked sweet peppers, fried green tomatoes, BBQ shrimp, scallops, wild mushroom ragout, Maryland-style crabcake, a duck confit quesadilla, and Sichuan pork belly (dry-cured in house) served over lo mein noodles.
While select dinner entrees are available at lunchtime and vice versa, nighttime patrons often opt for the dinner specialties, which include fish du jour (a rotating selection of fresh, sustainable catches at market price), traditional shrimp and grits, prime short rib, chicken and waffles, and the visually stunning and equally tasty Captain’s Plate. This simple seafood dish is complex in flavor and texture. The signature creation is a combination of pan seared local shrimp, scallops, jumbo lump crabcake and lightly blackened catch-of-the-day over vegetable risotto and finished with a smoked tomato and Madeira buerre butter sauce.
“For our crabcake, we use only fresh, domestic jumbo lump crabmeat,” says Chef Rice, “the best you can get.”
Always in demand, according to Chef Rice, is the wild boar meatloaf, made from wild boar and prime ground chuck. “This has a richer flavor than traditional meatloaf,” he says, “and it’s not at all gamey.”
The roasted individual loaf is topped with a blackberry chipotle glaze and served with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, Guinness caramelized onion gravy and copper penny carrots.
A long bar seats the after-work crowd (the cocktails are exceptional), and weekend live music from a soloist in the corner at a comfortable level for conversation gives Cypress Grille a friendly, casual feel. When the weather cooperates, plenty of outdoor seating is available, softly lit from real gas lanterns.
The main dining room is small, cozy and made up of booths along the wall and tables to accommodate both parties of two and larger groups. Cypress Grille has created and maintained a menu that would compete well in Charleston or Manhattan, and certainly among the Grand Strand’s finest restaurants, with enough local seafood and variety to please discriminating diners without breaking the bank.