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At EiO and The Hive, newly opened on Charlotte Pike, founder Jennifer Masley has two missions: Prepare delicious foods using all organic ingredients (that’s the EiO, or Everything is Organic, part of the equation) and serve them in a place that fosters community (hence, The Hive). The concept had long been forming in her mind; as a lifestyle specialist, she had a clear vision of creating community. Collaborating with chef Dale Levitski, she saw the food come together in a way that exceeded her expectations.
“I asked Dale to create a menu that maximized flavor, while minimizing fat-sugar-salt. He really elevated the offerings,” Masley says. “It’s healthful, fine dining in a fast-casual setting.”
Chef Levitski, who has developed many restaurant concepts, relished the challenge.
“I had to learn a new set of rules,” he says. “That I could wake up vegetables with just a splash of acid or fat and dash of salt. That vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores can co-exist sustainably.”
Masley and Levitski are proud to assure their customers that everything is fresh, organic, and seasonal. Much of it they source locally, and some they grow themselves in a nearby plot.
Salads and bowls all begin in vegan format, ready for you to build on and customize. To the Ginger Lemongrass Trinity (a grain trio of bulghur, farro, and millet) you might add The Garden—a fresh medley of cukes, avocado, radishes, squash, and pole beans in rice wine vinaigrette—and, further, top it with smoked, wild-caught salmon. The Caesar, dressed in a remarkable vegan aioli, is made more complex with cuts of asparagus, green apple, and lotus root. Punch it up with shavings of manchego. For that essence of summer on a plate, look no further than the Tomato Panzanella, which tumbles raw, poached, and roasted heirlooms with sweet corn, basil, and cubes of rustic bread. You could add more, but it is perfect as it is.
The eatery has a laidback vibe, with choice of seating at a community table, boho lounge areas, café tables, and banquettes. Work of local artists adorns the walls, including a brilliant mural in a repetitive beehive pattern. Lush green plants in macramé hangers suspend from the ceiling. Here, Masley hosts book events, workshops, and a once-a-month yoga brunch.
She says, “What’s important is not just the food you eat, but the people you surround [yourself] with.”
Yoga or not, weekend brunch is big at EiO. It’s also Levitski’s favorite. “It’s the most honest meal,” he muses, “where you come in after a big night and lay your stories on the table.” Our pick for the brunch table is his Shrimp Fried Rice, a deft stir of Gulf shrimp, veggies, and red jasmine rice sparked with tamari-lime vinaigrette and crowned with a sunny egg.
EiO can be your take-away market, too: Broths, salads, bowls, and the not-to-be-missed rotisserie chickens are all available. Levitski brines the birds for 24 hours in a honey-salt solution and roasts them to a rich and glazy brown. A sense of community—the hive—is forming, as Masley notes the growing numbers of regular customers who come to dine.
“Some restaurants are about the chef,” Levitski says. “And food preferences can be polarizing. Here, it’s about you. And your well-being. We want to make people happy.”
5304 Charlotte Pk., 615-203-0433; eioandthehive.com
Photos by Emily Hall Dorio, Katherine Tippett.