Urban Wren is unique compared to so many establishments in downtown Greenville. The upscale winery and restaurant tucked in the back of Markley Station, right between Hoppin’ and Todaro Pizza, was only open for one week before COVID-19 lockdowns forced its owners to close its doors.
Since its formal reopening on Mother’s Day of 2020, the restaurant has learned to operate in an environment that has been dubbed a “new normal” by some — although for Urban Wren, it’s hard to think of it as anything other than just plain “normal.”
“Urban Wren has really only known how to operate in a COVID-19 environment,” said executive director Nick Lincoln. “So all these ways we’ve had to adapt, it really doesn’t feel abnormal to us.”
What pandemic concerns have done, however, is speed up plans that were already in place to renovate the outdoor courtyard area.
“We want to make it warm and inviting, because truthfully it didn’t match with our vibe inside as much,” Lincoln said. “With such a beautiful inside space, the outside courtyard space just didn’t have the same touch, so we wanted to uplift that.”
With a new fire pit with built-in seating, fans for warm summer nights and heaters for the occasionally chilly evening, along with new service stations, railings, roll-up walls and artistic signage, the updated courtyard aims to better reflect the unique interior space of the restaurant while still offering a fresh, open-air environment.
“It just helps bring that space together and make it seem more cohesive with the inside of Urban Wren, as opposed to just walking out the doors and being in the middle of the courtyard between Hoppin’ and Todaro,” Lincoln said. “We don’t dumb down our service when you’re in the courtyard space. It’s just as amplified and attentive.”
As the weather warms and COVID-19 vaccinations proceed at a steady pace, the focus on a refresh for the restaurant comes as the city itself is able to finally emerge from a year-long hibernation of sorts. This philosophy drove the new spring and summer menu that Urban Wren will unveil in the coming weeks, with specialty dishes being featured every week until the final rollout.
With a focus on local seasonable vegetables, Lincoln said “nice, bright freshness” will drive many of the dishes. Same goes for the drink menu, which will be spearheaded by new general manager and beverage director Travis Giarratana. Citrus, island-style drinks will be highlighted, with cocktails that aim to transport patrons to foreign locales, all while remaining true to the restaurant’s focus on imbibing worldly recipes with Southern flair.
Not to mention the wine.
“We’re still focused on our wine pairings and making sure we continue progressing in that regard, because we don’t think there’s any other restaurant in Greenville putting together a menu and wine offerings like we are,” Lincoln said. “With the new menu, it just makes it more exciting for us.”