The suspense has been building for the last few weeks around the new restaurant being constructed on the corner of Ninth Avenue North and Withers Drive near the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. Only a well-designed sign that reads “The Chemist. Craft cocktails and modern cuisine” gives any indication as to what will be going into the space.
I was honored to be invited into the space to talk with Larry Bond, owner of The Chemist, and Executive Chef Sean Thomas.
You may know Bond from his wildly popular ART Burger Sushi Bar (706 N. Ocean Blvd.) just across the park. However, The Chemist is its own wonderland. It is not an imitation of its sister restaurant, but a step further in Bond’s culinary quest for excellence.
As I entered, Bond was crouched on the floor attaching the lighting for the underside of the bar himself. I waited as he made sure it was just right before rising and shaking my hand. He puts a lot of personal effort in the design, construction and development of his restaurants.
The bar is a focal point of the new place. It is where Bond and his crew of mad scientists will make their own bitters, tonics, oils and cocktails on tap.
From the mixers to the ice, there is no detail left to chance. In fact, Bond and I chatted at length about ice. He is hand carving spheres for scotch and bourbon and he has created a specific shape of ice for his mixtures. True cocktail people know that ice is the telltale of a serious cocktail room. The Chemist is showing signs of being in line with bars in Portland or San Francisco, well-known cocktail cities, in that regard.
By the looks of the massive amount of shelf space in the bar, I would venture a guess that some rare and interesting bottles are going to be found in this place. Bourbon was mentioned in our meeting as Bond grinned with shy excitement. Knowing him and his team, he has some surprises up his sleeve that will be revealed on opening night Sept. 15.
The Chemist has three taps devoted to lavish house cocktails that will be made in small kegs. Dispensed either flat or with bubbles, depending upon the drink, these will be house staples that are more complex and more elaborate in flavor. Bond created the system himself and says that it will speed up the process and allow for them to experiment more often with their menu.
A rotating selection of more than a dozen craft beers on tap will be featured at any given time behind the bar. Folks looking for a Bud draft should look elsewhere. While some domestics will be in house, none will be on the stage. Shooting for a steady rotation of true hand-crafted beers is The Chemist’s goal.
One of the only ideas that Bond is “borrowing” from ART will be the liquid nitrogen cocktail experience. However, he perfected the system and has installed a machine to increase efficiency.
The real focus at The Chemist will be making as many of the ingredients as they can. There will be a focus on keeping things fresh and bringing in only the best spirits, beer and mixers they can find. In a nutshell: well-made drinks with a perfect balance of flavor and interesting ingredients.
When you talk about food, Thomas is no stranger to doing it well in this area. From 21 Main and as the South Carolina Seafood Champion, Thomas is primed to impress with his food at The Chemist.
I noticed a tray of micro greens in the kitchen before I sat down with him. I asked him about them and he said, “we are growing them ourselves.” Thomas went on to tell me about the molecular gastronomy that he is bringing to the table, quite literally, at The Chemist from spheres, fruit caviar, reconstructed dishes, de-constructed dishes, simple plates and plates that taste familiar but look new. He is using all of his skills to make this kitchen one of the best on the beach.
“We have placed our emphasis on fresh,” he said. “It has to be fresh before we will consider the possibilities of putting a molecular spin on the dish.”
The real difference will be that Thomas is cooking a majority of the food himself. His passion for choosing, growing, prepping and cooking the food himself is what will set this place apart. Let us hope he can keep up with our appetites.
“Myrtle Beach is ready for this type of food,” said Bond.
Bond’s lifelong dream of pushing the local culinary scene forward by doing his very best in his restaurants is naturally complemented by Thomas’ abilities and creativity. The two have known each other for years and finally managed to team up for what is sure to be a darling of our culinary culture.
Greatness does not come from playing it safe. While the doors to The Chemist have not opened and the menus are not finalized, this restaurant has more promise than any other opening this year. Knowing Bond and his team, we will get more than we imagined from this soon-to-be culinary and cocktail hot spot.