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Timberlake Country Club’s new restaurant has fine dining that rivals anyplace in the US

Chapin, SC (Paul Kirby) Last summer, the homeowners of Timberlake Plantation near Chapin who own the country club and golf course decided they wanted to make a change in the dining offerings in the club’s bar and restaurant. They wanted a more upscale menu and options that would really tantalize their taste buds; something that would really wow them if you will. After being invited for a meal at the restaurant myself, I can assure you they have accomplished their goals! It’s now truly an opportunity to enjoy a meal like something you might have in the finest eateries of New York or Atlanta.

To make the change they wanted, the owners approached industry expert Jimmy Kokolis, better known as “Jimmy the Greek,” who has been in the food industry more than 40 years. He opened his Zorba’s Greek, American, and Middle Eastern cuisine in the St. Andrews Shopping Center in 1979, and later moved to Chapin in 2003. He’s run a Zorba’s restaurant and bar on Chapin Road since. Even before immigrating from his native Greece, he learned cooking from his mother. One of six boys, he helped his mamma in the kitchen and learned to cook at her knee.

First let me say that yes, the club IS open to the public. It’s a beautiful drive there, or you can dock in any of 10 boat slips available for patrons on beautiful Lake Murray. If you’d like, call ahead and they’ll bring a golf cart to the dock so you can play golf, or for your drive to the club for a meal. This place is truly a destination experience, well worth the time it would take to get there from anywhere.

The restaurant is called The Purple Martin Grille & Cellar. This is in homage to the beautiful Purple Martins that call Bombing Range Island on Lake Murray their home. It is in the higher-level floor of the clubhouse in a beautifully appointed setting.

There is a banquet style room with a formal flair. There, you’ll experience fine china, beautiful silverware, and linen table cloths. In the bar, it’s more casual with the dark wood tables, a gorgeous and well stocked bar, and access to a veranda that overlooks Lake Murray and the golf course. It’s perfect for large groups, wedding, parties, and any size banquet groups. Capacity is around 200 if that gives you any indication of the size we are talking about. If your group's smaller, that’s okay too.

The bar stocks top shelf spirits as well as good house brands. They also have a selection of 120 wines and growing. The staff is well versed on the wines and beers and how they pair with the dishes on the menu. They have a selection of bottled beers, both domestic and imports, as well as eight drafts. Four of those drafts are standards and four taps rotate by the season or the desire of the chef to have the customers try new things. Most of the rotating drafts are regional craft beers. Few bottled mixes are used, and the simple syrups and other mixes are either made or modified in house for better quality. There is some mixology going on here for sure, not just a pouring, and more of that will come as the drink menu develops.

The menu was dramatically changed by the Executive Chef Tripp McDaniel. At just 30, McDaniel, a native of Irmo and the son of an attorney, has a degree from USC in Hotel, Restaurant,and Tourism Management. He then moved to Charlotte where he attended Johnson and Wales for his culinary degree. He worked in some of the finest hotels, so he has had banquet experience and some wonderful mentors throughout the years.

McDaniel is teamed with Chef D’ Cuisine Andrew Seigfried who has worked at Al’s Upstairs in West Columbia and Saluda’s, Sous Chef Mate Pate, formerly of Terra and other fining dining establishments, and Zane Bramlett, who has worked at Restaurant Divino and Bourbon to name a few. Together, this is a real team of superstars by the taste and appearance of their food.

When he arrived at the Purple Martin, McDaniel first spent a few weeks observing the staff and menu. He talked to the customers and asked them what they were looking for. Then, he made menu changes to feature seasonal, fresh, local ingredients. Much of what he has on the menu is sourced from places like City Roots in Columbia, Keisler’s Mill in Lexington, and fresh caught seafood that comes from just off our region’s coasts. Fresh is his mantra, and you can identify the difference immediately when you taste his platings!

On the new menu, you’ll find a great selection from simple burgers to…..well the moon really. The Purple Martin Burger is an exquisitely cooked and specially ground beef patty topped with beer-soaked Gruyere cheese, bourbon bacon, fresh lettuce,tomato, and purple onions, on a beautiful toasted Brioche bun.It’s topped off with a perfectly fried egg that has yoke left to ooze over the patty as you bite in. I asked for mine mid-rare and it came just perfect.

There’s a rack of lamb, a duck plate I tasted that had both spot on mid-rare breast that was sous-vide then seared on the grill. A confit leg quarter sits on top of that. It’s had its skin crisped in the fryer; remarkable is all I can say! That sits atop a cassoulet bean and lardon cake that's dusted in panko breadcrumbs, fried, and local collard greens that wanted for nothing, no vinegar, no hot-sauce, nothing; perfect!

My personal favorite was a fresh, thick flounder filet served over those sumptuous Keisler’s Mill stone ground local grits. It has a white wine sauce with cream that was melt in your mouth heaven! There’s also gorgeous micro-greens on top that makes the plate a masterpiece you feel guilty biting into. If you’re not into the fish, how about a sweet-tea brined, bone-in pork chop, or a selection of steaks from 8 to 14 ounces.

For an appetizer, try McDaniel’s play on chicken and waffles that uses Manchester Farms fried quail, spoonbread waffles, and a Siracha butter syrup. There’s an assorted meat and cheese plate with selections like salami, rabbit, and an assortment of high-end cheeses. If that’s not your style, how about Bourbon bacon scallops or firecracker fried oysters with a Siracha mayo. There’s also a great selection of soup and salads if lighter fare is what you seek.

McDaniel buys his proteins whole. He and his team butcher the flounder, duck, and others in house, and they work almost everything from the animal into the menu. It’s a nose-to-tail experience with sustainable proteins where little goes to waste.

The sides are as great as the mains. I tried hand-cut fries drizzled in duck fat with the burger. Everything was so perfectly seasoned I never once looked for salt, pepper, or anything else; you simply don’t need it. In short, everything I tried was the essence of perfection on each plate. The chef’s presentations are gorgeous, not one micro-green out of place! It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen a chef called to a table for compliments. The day I was there, a table of ladies celebrating a birthday,gave McDaniel a rousing ovation. It’s really that good!

McDaniel said that he and his staff strive to give each of their diners an intimate feel and premium service. He wants every experience there to be a great experience. If what I ate, saw, and experienced was any indication, he has achieved his goal.

I looked for flaws, really, I did. The devil’s in the details and I couldn’t find one detail not attended to. The place has tons of windows because of the gorgeous view. When I was left to myself to wander around, I checked the windows for cleanliness. Certainly, with all those windows there had to be spots; even that was as it should be, spotless! Look, no restaurant no matter how good can survive in South Carolina without a great sweet tea. I tried theirs and it was wonderful too!

Right now, there are special events happening with area celebrity chefs doing cooking demonstrations. Those seats go super-fast. There’s even specialty nights where McDaniel and his staff spread their culinary wings and fly to faraway places like Japan. He does his own sushi rolls and a noodle soup that is as beautifully plated as anything I’ve experienced. For Valentine, they're now taking reservations for a special that might include a heart-shaped filet and other sides and mains that I guarantee will impress you and your significant other. At Easter, they’re planning a brunch I’m sure will also fill up fast too.

Every Monday, there’s a chef’s tasting menu that includes a paired beverage, appetizer, and main. Most plates feature a protein, vegetables, and a starch. There are choices like broccolini, those wonderful collards, Brussel sprouts, dirty rice, whipped potatoes, and an assortment of seasonal vegetables.

Future plans include closing the dining room at lunch after a complete revamp of the smaller snack bar downstairs. It will be a bit more casual for the lunch crowd, golfers, and anyone enjoying the other amenities. The food will be grand I assure you, just a little less pricey than the upstairs that’s open now. That menu will be expanded and a lighter fare offered as well. There are also plans for a regular Sunday brunch with Mimosas and Bloody Marys, a must for that service.

They open at 11:30 a.m. for lunch and service begins at noon. The dinner menu starts at 5:30 p.m. and runs until 9:00 with closing at 10:00 p.m. They’re open six days a week. They're closed on Sundays now, but will be open for brunch soon. Plates start at about $16.00 per cover and top out just north of $30.00. Reservations are not required, except for special events, but they are suggested to guarantee a seat. They also have a full catering menu, so you can eat like a king wherever you choose. The Purple Martin Grille and Cellar is located at 222 Timberlake Drive in Chapin, SC. Go, I know if your palate is wanting for upscale, you’ll be blown away.

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Call Paul Kirby

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