In a bid to improve its bottom line, which has been held down by the high costs of organic food, Mt. Pleasant’s Puree Café is launching a full-fledged dinner menu later this month.
“We’re not in danger of going out of business, but it’s got to get profitable at some point,” Jenan McClain says of the vegetarian restaurant she and her husband launched last year.
According to McClain, the restaurant’s commitment to using only organic ingredients hasn’t resonated with local eaters, who tend to group Puree with the spate of other new Mt. Pleasant restaurants emphasizing freshness, such as Southerly and Scratch Taco.
“A lot of people in the South don’t even know what a GMO is, so it’s been a real educational process,” McClain says.
McClain says numerous customers have suggested she bend the house rules to allow Coke and other popular non-organic products, but she says she’s not swayed by the promise of a sure sell.
“We just don’t feel comfortable serving people chemicals,” she says.
The restaurant’s latest gambit is dinner, which debuts on Oct. 24 with a five-course tasting.
When McClain three months ago extended Puree’s hours, she served the restaurant’s standard lunch menu of salads and wraps into the evening. But she quickly realized that what worked at midday didn’t impress at night, so she hired a former Carter’s sous chef to head up the kitchen. While McClain isn’t yet ready to reveal everything on Ulfet Ralph’s new menu, she says the lineup includes walnut cashew terrine and seitan with collards.
Puree’s also trying to lure a later crowd with cocktails made from organic vodka and freshly-squeezed juices, another trend that McClain says has been slow to arrive in the region.
“We’ve put a lot of money into this and we just need to get our numbers up,” McClain says.