As students returned to Bob Jones University last August after a long period of isolation, community and connection became especially important. For Maestro Bistro & Dinner Club, a new restaurant in Downtown Greenville, that same need for community became the driving force behind a triumphant opening during the pandemic.
Arielle Salley and Samuel Dominguez, the married couple who own the restaurant along with Salley’s mother, Nicole, originally planned to open their restaurant in March. They were celebrating the upcoming launch when they got a call from a friend telling them to turn on the TV. With mounting horror, they watched as the governor shut down Greenville’s non-essential commercial activities as a precaution against COVID-19.
One of their first thoughts, Salley said, was what to do with all the food they had ordered for the opening of the restaurant. Since most of the inventory purchased for an upstart restaurant is perishable, they found themselves eating well during quarantine—but decided to share the overflow with the community.
“We cooked for the community, we cooked for our vendors . . . really just tried to make the best out of it that we possibly could,” Salley said.
Sharing food became a way to stay connected to a community that was virtually shut down by COVID-19 until the governor allowed restaurants and businesses to slowly open back up, starting at 50% capacity.
The connections they built through their cooking still show through the restaurant’s staff. Although most restaurants have been staffing less due to the limited capacity, Maestro Bistro employs a full staff that all strive to create an environment reaching beyond hospitable. Having acquired a staff, all that was missing was the connection to customers.
Salley said the restaurant started using OpenTable, an online service that provides information and booking for restaurants, to let the community know the restaurant was open. Salley said social media has also made communication easier. Before long, customers became a central part of the family-run business.
“Greenville needed something positive,” Dominguez said about the decision to connect to the community through cooking, no matter the obstacles. That “something positive” has turned into one of the most inviting restaurant atmospheres downtown Greenville has to offer.
The Maestro Bistro was named after the “maestro,” or chef. The dining experience is all about connection, a theme obvious from the huge window connecting the kitchen to the dining room. Salley said as they remodeled the restaurant, they opened the kitchen to give the community a view of what goes on behind the scenes.
“The Maestro guides the symphony,” Salley said. “A kitchen’s really no different from orchestrating a symphony.”
From the other side of the window, Chef Dominguez, the maestro, said he wanted to see the reaction to his culinary creations. The creative elements of the restaurant, renovated by the family themselves, compose a sense of community, giving the dining room a welcoming ambiance, while the stylish and classy décor lend an air of fine dining. The restaurant also includes an outdoor seating area in the plaza alongside Nose Dive, another popular restaurant, a short walk from the Westin Poinsett in downtown Greenville.
Maestro Bistro offers a variety of fine dining menu options, ranging from seafood appetizers and artisan salads to high choice steak cuts and ratatouille. Chef Dominguez also enjoys offering novelty dishes or special meats, like wild boar, when the opportunity arises. Students looking to treat themselves—or try escargot for the first time—can find a full menu and book a table on OpenTable.com.