With inventive cuisine and modern, elegant decor, Peppervine is a treat for the senses.
by Cathy Martin
Like kudzu, peppervine is a vigorous, climbing plant that traces its roots to Asia and runs rampant across much of the southeastern U.S. The team behind Peppervine restaurant, which opened at Piedmont Town Center in March, thought it a fitting depiction of their new concept.
“With our partners, Bob and Robb Lackey [of Imagine One Hospitality], we collectively wanted a representation of something hearty, something a bit wild, and something that will endure,” says Chef Bill Greene. His wife, Anita, is general manager of the SouthPark restaurant.
For the last decade, the Greenes have made a name for themselves in culinary circles as the operators of Artisanal, a seasonal fine-dining restaurant in Banner Elk adjacent to Diamond Creek Golf Club. The club, featuring a Tom Fazio-designed course, was started in the early 2000s by golf professional John McNeely and business and sports magnate Wayne Huizenga as a secluded getaway for an elite crowd — the exclusive club even offers helicopter service, shuttling its members to and from nearby airports.
Artisanal’s reputation earned Peppervine a mention as one of the “Most Anticipated” spring restaurant openings in the U.S. by Food & Wine magazine.
Bill Greene grew up in Avery County before attending the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, N.Y. His resume includes stints at New York’s LeCirque 2000 and the Phoenician luxury resort in Scottsdale, Ariz. He and Anita, a former mechanical engineer who is originally from Aiken, S.C., had always wanted to open a place in the Queen City, Greene says.
“We have a deep connection with the city, it’s where we met, and we feel that Charlotte has a lot of potential.”
The result is a breathtaking space that’s as much about the ambience as the food and has quickly become one of Charlotte’s buzziest dinner spots.
“The inspiration for Peppervine’s décor came from our desire to lighten up what was originally a very dark space,” Greene says. “When we first came in, it was a mixture of different styles. We wanted to incorporate many tones of soft neutrals, balancing it with tons of texture.”
A striking installation piece by Alabama-based artist Alex Pate separates the bar from the main dining room. Light fixtures by Charleston, S.C.-based paper artist Jocelyn Châteauvert brighten the space, along with the tall windows and lofty ceilings. The restaurant also has teamed with Shain Gallery to provide a quarterly rotation of artwork.
“Art has always been an inspiration for the Greenes,” says Sybil Godwin, owner of the Selwyn Avenue gallery. “The gorgeous neutral wood interiors and culinary artwork are the perfect complement for Shain Gallery’s talented artists … and all of the art is for sale!”
On a recent weekend, patrons ranged from small groups of couples and ladies out for a low-key but upscale girls’ night, to younger couples on dates or enjoying a peaceful night away from the kids.
What you won’t see are many people on cell phones: While the carefully crafted plates would be sure to spice up your Instagram feed, Peppervine feels like a respite, best experienced by unplugging, unwinding and taking in the bright, airy space and surrounding art, both in the dining room and on the plates.
Greene’s menu, which is updated daily, emphasizes local farms and seasonal produce and seafood. More than a dozen small plates are offered, plus a smaller selection of entrees.
“Small plates are popular because they allow for diners to try several items on the menu rather than just sticking to a conventional appetizer and entrée,” Greene says. “Guests are able to experience more and try unique flavor combinations and sample culinary experiences from across the globe.”
The menu at Peppervine shares a few elements with Artisanal, including a popular King Crab dish, Greene says. “Guests who are familiar with my cooking will taste things they may have experienced before, but also be prepared for new, complex flavor profiles.
Standouts on a recent visit included bigeye tuna sashimi served with citrusy yuzu gelee, Fresno chili and shoyu, a type of soy sauce; and earthy baked sunchokes with crème fraiche, shallot butter and malt vinegar.
Breads, charcuterie and desserts are made in-house, including the baked-to-order yeast rolls and pimento-cheese scones served with pepper jelly and sorghum butter.
Peppervine offers an extensive wine selection, featuring a mix of West Coast and Old World choices and representing both classic labels and up-and-coming vintners. Greene also has a hand in developing the cocktail menu, incorporating techniques and ingredients from his kitchen. The Occidental Rose — Grey Goose vodka, PAMA pomegranate liqueur and Cremant, a sparkling wine — is a refreshing pick for a warm summer night. A limited beer selection is also available.
Peppervine is open for dinner Monday-Thursday 5 – 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 5 – 10:30 p.m. The upstairs mezzanine seats private groups of up to 16; larger groups of up to 32 can be accommodated in the back of the main dining area. Patio seating is available. Reservations can be made on OpenTable. 4620 Piedmont Row Dr., Suite 170B SP