At last, the creative vegetarian restaurant Fern, Flavors from the Garden, opened the doors to its new Dilworth location with little fanfare Sept. 30. This new location is a cafe space formerly operated by Something Classic Catering.
The address, to start. You can find Fern at 1419 East Blvd., Suite A, where the spacious patio overlooks the street and the indoor seating area is flooded with sunlight streaming through tall windows. This location is about three miles from its former Plaza Midwood location.
The menu. It changes seasonally so the restaurant can work with as many local farmers as possible at any given time, said general manager Susan Walley. There’s nothing pumpkin-oriented at the moment, but executive chef Matt Martin is rather excited about an incoming order of kabocha squash, usually brought in by local farm Rosemary Pete.
“We’re going to do a leek-and-mushroom-stuffed kabocha squash,” Martin said. “… It’s cool because you can roast it whole and you can cut it like tenderloin, almost. It’s so cool.”
Martin loves fall, partially because his birthday is Oct. 26. “I love fall flavors,” he added. “I love when it gets cold out. I love being able to produce heartier flavors, for sure.”
New top-sellers on the menu thus far are the Fig Flatbread featuring fig and shallot jam, plus brie, apples and arugula; the Pesto Panini with basil and pistachio pesto, plus zucchini, yellow squash, roasted tomatoes and kale; and Risotto Bolognese with Carnaroli rice, mushroom and walnut Bolognese, and micro greens.
The open kitchen/chef’s station. Yep, you can sit at the bar, or anywhere, really, and be able to see what the chefs are whipping up.
No walk-in cooler space. This is actually a good challenge to have, Walley said, because it forces them to bring in fresh produce almost daily and therefore work with more local farmers (like Tega Hills Farms, Barbee Farms and Rosemary Pete) and alter the menu when necessary.
If you’re new to Fern, fear not. “We like to play with people’s comfort zones,” Walley said, “so you’ll still find plenty of things on the menu that even if you’ve never seen tofu before in your life, don’t be afraid, come on in. There are still plenty of dishes that don’t have it, or have it in such an approachable way that it takes that fear factor out of it for folks who aren’t vegetarian.”
Like the coconut-breaded tofu on the dinner menu. What’s recognizable is the red curry sauce and the fried rice.
What came from the former space
Parts of the menu. You’ll still find the vegan Pimiento Cheese; the Fern Salad with tomato, cashews, cucumber and zucchini noodles; and the Buffalo Cauliflower (crazy delicious).
A stained glass window. While the mason-jar chandelier was replaced by dangling green jugs over the bar, this window that was set into the door leading to the former kitchen was salvaged for a shelf in one corner of the new space.
A painting by South Carolina artist Harriet Goode. Gotta love local art.
The silverware. And the tables and the baseboards, which were made from barn wood.
Live ferns. You’ll notice them hanging from moss balls along the wall. RIP fern wall from the old space.
What else you should know
“We have fun with food,” Walley said. “That’s what we do.”
Fern: 1419 East Blvd., Suite A
Current hours below. The restaurant will be open on Mondays in a few weeks as well.
Photos: Katie Toussaint