Bacon is the ingredient of choice at Sizzle, a restaurant Chef Gary Uwanawich and his business partner, Matthew Canyes, are opening in Five Points. They say their creative take on the classic ingredient will create unique, inventive dishes.
By Damian Dominguez
May 6, 2014
Everyone loves bacon – at least that’s what Chef Gary Uwanawich and his business partner, Matthew Canyes, say.
They are the minds behind Sizzle, a Five Points restaurant they’re developing that features bacon in every dish. From the bacon-wrapped jalapenos and shrimp to the bacon bloody mary and martini, Uwanawich said, they plan to “open the world one strip of bacon at a time.”
To do that, Uwanawich and Canyes are already talking about franchising Sizzle. But Bob Goldin, executive vice president at the food industry consulting firm Technomic, cautions that the mostly bacon idea is too narrow.
“A menu built on only one item has too much novelty value. It’s a big risk,” he said.
“We’re not afraid,” said Uwanawich, a former restaurant consultant himself.
Sizzle isn’t just wrapping things in bacon, he said, predicting that inventive entrees and personable service will mean success.
Bacon’s naturally salty and earthy flavors can be used in unexpected ways, he said. For instance, rendered bacon instead of salt in a dish can reduce the sodium while maintaining the flavor, Uwanawich said, and infusing bacon with cream can make for a surprising twist on a creme brulee.
Desserts are where bacon’s flavors will shine because the saltiness pairs well with sweetness, said Joel Reynolds, a culinary instructor at the University of South Carolina.
Uwanawich said he knows people will also still be interested in more traditional bacon dishes, like carbonara or a classic BLT. “People want food that they can relate to – it makes them feel good,” he said.
But bacon has dropped off many menus as customers lose interest, said Nathan Thurston, executive sous chef at The Sanctuary Hotel in Charleston. “It’s played its role; I don’t know how much can be done with it,” he said.
People might also not eat pork for religious or dietary reasons, so the solution is to remain flexible, Thurston said. Uwanawich said Sizzle’s menu will offer turkey bacon and soy bacon as well as bacon-free versions of many dishes.
One thing he is concerned about are rising prices. Pork prices have gone up recently, for instance, because of a deadly virus affecting pigs, and some predictions are for as much as a 15 percent increase this summer.
But Uwanawich says Sizzle’s prices – starting at about $8 for a typical lunch entree and $12 for dinner – won’t change just because bacon prices do, and he isn’t concerned people will stay away because of sticker shock at the grocery store.
“People will find a way to get what they want,” he said.
Sizzle’s menu will constantly evolve based in part on the already substantial feedback through social media, he said. Uwanawich and Canyes have enlisted their fans, whom they call “baconeers,” to test out ideas, even the mayonnaise for the BLT. (Duke’s won with nearly all of the 39 votes over Hellmann’s.)
A bacon theme helps drum up community attention because of the niche experience, said John Berryhill, owner of Bacon, a restaurant in Boise, Idaho. The 3-year-old restaurant has remained successful because of that, he said.
Uwanawich said Sizzle will also have locally sourced specialty bacon, but he isn’t ready to discuss the source.
Uwanawich, 48, said he has been a consultant for 12 years, opening over 100 restaurants. Sizzle, he said, is his opportunity to finally open a restaurant of his own. Canyes, 22, said he left his job at a financial planning firm in Boca Raton, Fla., to open up a business of his own.
The two said they have been close friends for years, so when Canyes came to South Carolina during Christmas last year, the idea of opening a bacon-themed restaurant together came up.
Listen to Chef Gary Uwanawich explain the relaxed, comfortable atmosphere he aims to create at Sizzle.
Listen to Joel Reynolds, a culinary instructor at the University of South Carolina, talk about the opportunity that Sizzle has to use local ingredients.
Canyes handles the business side; Uwanawich said he’s happy in the kitchen.
“We complement one another,” Uwanawich said. “I have his heart and he has mine.”
Uwanawich said the Five Points atmosphere is trendy and perfect for Sizzle because the area has a core of regulars but also brings in new people, and he and Canyes are confident the restaurant will succeed.
“Bacon is a feel-good food that’s going to be here forever,” Uwanawich said.
If you go:
How to find it: 819 Harden St., Columbia; 803-223-1021; http://sizzlesc.com.
Prices: $8 to $15 for lunch, $12 to $28 for dinner.
Some featured menu items
The Sizzle Minions – Sliders of blended prime short rib, brisket, chuck and bacon.
Sizzle French toast – Stuffed with bacon-infused cream cheese and drizzled with a maple bourbon glaze.
Scorpion Bites – Jalapenos and shrimp wrapped in bacon.
The Widow Maker – An angus cheeseburger topped with bacon and slow-smoked pulled pork.