Greenville has increasingly gained recognition over the last several years for our food scene, and there are a number of local restaurateurs we have to thank for making our up + coming foodie haven as great as it is. One of those restaurateurs is Carl Sobocinski – founder of Table 301.
Most people know that Table 301 is the restaurant group behind local faves like Soby’s New South Cuisine, The Lazy Goat, Southern Pressed Juicery, Nose Dive, and more, but how many of you remember Carl’s first Greenville restaurant –The 858?
The 858 was open in Greenville from 1993 to 1998 and was owned by Carl Sobocinksi, Todd King, and Larry Grosshans, and later, Kip Wynne, John Kirk, and Steve Boone. The old restaurant sat at 18 E. North St. and got the name “The 858,” because the building was formerly the Elks Lodge, and their lodge number was 858.
We reached out to Carl to ask him why he chose Greenville as the home for his first restaurant. After all, Greenville looked a lot different in 1993. “I had moved to Greenville after graduating [from] Clemson and had a nice network of friends here...Wanting to make my home here in Greenville, close to Clemson, for the foreseeable future seemed like the right thing to do. Greenville was small and emerging, larger than Clemson, but certainly nowhere near where it is today. For me, I had hoped that I would have a better chance of being a big fish (being able to be impactful) in a small pond than being a small fish in a big pond (Charlotte or Atlanta).”
The menu was, as Carl describes, Pacific Rim, meaning a melting pot of different flavors ranging from California to across the Pacific to Asia. He says The 858 menu had some similarities to the Soby’s menu in terms of offering a lot of “comfort food” items, he also explicitly names Soby’s Potato Crusted Grouper, Wild Mushroom Meatloaf, and White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie as menu items that are similar to those offered by The 858. The restaurant also first introduced Greenville’s culinary scene to a different presentation of food – layering or “stacking” the food on the plate as opposed to placing everything next to each other.
The 858 may have closed its doors, but Carl Sobocinski’s Table 301 restaurants have been feeding hungry Greenvillians since the opening of Soby’s in 1997.
So, about “Table 301,” what exactly does that mean? Where does that name come from?
Carl tells us, “Table 301 is the number that our ‘Chef’s Table’ at Soby’s is identified by. We consider Table 301 to be the Chef’s Table because while not ‘in’ the kitchen, it is the table that sits at the top of the stairs and looks down into the kitchen, the Chef’s Pass (where the chef oversees the nightly service), and the entire main dining room and entrance to the restaurant. The level of hospitality that you should receive at the Chef’s Table in any restaurant is the highest level that there can be. We want our staff to treat any guest at any table as if they are seated at the Chef’s Table and we want every guest no matter what table they are seated at to feel like they are at the Chef’s Table.” Carl says that each of the Table 301 restaurants has a best seat in the house, or a “table 301.”
“In some cases the ‘best table’ is ‘numbered’ 301 even if that sequence doesn’t match the table numbering (for instance the balcony table at Jianna) and in other cases, Table 63 at Passerelle (the corner patio table overlooking the Falls), represents what would be considered Table 301/Chef’s Table there. At The Nose Dive, it is considered the front corner round table in the North East corner of the restaurant and at The Lazy Goat it would be the table in the middle of the room, against the window overlooking the river and Peace Center.”
Well, now you know where every best seat in the house is so you can impress your next dinner date. Shout out to Carl Sobocinski for helping make Greenville a little tastier.
Interested in learning about more old restaurants in Greenville? We’d highly recommend checking out Lost Restaurants of Greenville by John Nolan.