On this day 25 years ago, Carl Sobocinski was opening the doors to Soby’s New South Cuisine (207 S. Main St.), a new dining concept in what we know as the heart of downtown Greenville. Only, there was no Falls Park, no Liberty Bridge + far fewer hotels, restaurants, and businesses.
In honor of 25 years of Soby’s, we asked Carl 10 questions about his vision, his latest concept + his favorite things to do in Greenville.
What brought you to open Soby’s?
I thought I wanted to be an architect. It didn’t pan out, so I started waiting tables and bartending.
After I graduated, I moved here and continued to pursue the restaurant business. I opened a restaurant in 1993 called “The 858,” and that’s where I really got my hands-on experience. I departed from there, looked for a place to do it again, and landed on this — at the time — abandoned building at the south end of Main Street in 1997.
Did you have any idea how downtown, and specifically that south end of Main Street, was going to develop?
Nancy Whitworth, with the City’s Economic Development, spent some time with me and shared some long-term visioning plans for downtown and its development. I 100% bought into what the city was going to pursue, and hopefully fulfill, in this vision for downtown. I never in my wildest dreams imagined the top-10, top-5 lists we get on. It’s all surpassed all of my wildest dreams.
From Soby’s to Table 301, how did you get to where you are as an entrepreneur + restaurateur in Greenville in 2022?
In our first business plan for Soby’s, we knew we wanted to have a small restaurant group and stay local in our community and give back, so when we did our second (Soby’s on the Side) and our third restaurant (Restaurant O), we started formulating some thoughts and ideas about launching a restaurant group. When we launched our fourth restaurant (The Lazy Goat), we brought all of these under the umbrella. They’re all unique brands, they all have unique stories, but they also have the same similarity of culture and philosophy of hospitality.
What can you tell us about Table 301’s latest concept, Jones Oyster Co.?
It will be open by the end of the year. Jones is going to have less than 50 seats. It’s kind of neat to have a small footprint where there’s a line out the door, people are always waiting to get in, whereas most of our restaurants are 100+ seats.
I love oysters. I don’t think we have a lot of options for fresh oysters or for fresh seafood. We’ll have three or four different oysters on the half shell, P’o boys, New Orleans-style grilled oysters, lobster rolls, crab cake sandwiches, hush puppies, key lime pie, all the standard coastal seafood.
25 years ago, did you picture this is where you’d be today?
I think every facet of where we are today far surpasses what I had thought it would be.
Describe your perfect day in Greenville in the length of a Tweet (280 characters).
My perfect day in Greenville would be waking up early and getting out on the Swamp Rabbit Trail for either a run or a ride, having brunch at one of the many downtown brunch spots, spending time with my girls and my wife, and then getting out on the golf course with my buddies.
Name 3-5 other local leaders, influencers, or movers + shakers you’re watching.
- Robert Hughes, President of Hughes Development Corporation
- Joe Cash, Owner and chef of Scoundrel (18 N. Main St.)
- Bo Aughtry, Chairman and CEO of Windsor Aughtry
You can only choose one local restaurant menu to bring with you to a deserted island (and it can’t be one of your own) — which one is it and why?
Anything sushi, probably Tsunami.
What were the last 3 things you did locally?
- Went to the Luke Bryan concert
- Ran the Swamp Rabbit Trail
- Went on a tour of Clemson
Who are 2-3 other local leaders you’re inspired by?
- Jim Cockman, Late Greenville businessman
- Bob Hughes, Real estate developer and Chairman of Hughes Development Corporation
- Minor Shaw, Businesswoman and philanthropist