By Alex Gallagher | September 8, 2021
Brandon Juniper has never been a fan of restaurants with unfriendly service or overbearing management.
As someone who has worked in the restaurant industry since age 15 — and has attended his fair share of bad restaurants — Juniper knew that if he ever opened his own eatery, he would do things differently.
When Juniper, along with two of his partners, opened Cook & Craft in February of 2020, he knew he wanted to create a space where everyone felt comfortable, including the staff.
“The vision here is that it starts with the staff, the friendly service and the friendly environment and then we pack it up with our product,” Juniper says. “We work as a team, and we’re all like a little family here.”
Though Juniper has found success in his concept, he almost lost it all just weeks after Cook & Craft opened its doors.
Juniper admits he was blindsided by the onset of the pandemic and had to contemplate closing shop permanently or trying to “grind this out.”
He chose the latter and was able to make the most out of an initially scary situation.
With the help of a manager, a bartender and a cook — all three whom he credits as key players in the restaurant’s survival — Juniper and Co. keep Cook & Craft alive by working seven days a week preparing takeout orders for nearly three months.
When Juniper initially acquired the space, he was unsure if he would ever have a use for the building’s existing drive-thru window but quickly found it perfect for takeout orders.
“When we took this over, I didn’t know what I was going to do with a drive-thru and having one turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” Juniper says with a smile.
After takeout orders helped Cook & Craft weather the storm, Juniper was elated to allow customers back in the dining room to experience what makes the restaurant unique.
“We set ourselves apart by doing little things,” Juniper says. “For instance, when we did takeout, we wanted to do something that set us apart. We put handwritten scrolls tied by a ribbon in every one of our to-go bags that will say something to show our appreciation.”
Now that Cook & Craft has had around a year of experience serving hungry customers in house and via takeout, Juniper has noticed a change in trends.
“To this day we have a regular clientele just through takeout,” he says. “Now, after things have begun to open back up, we’re getting our takeout clientele in our restaurant and they’re so excited to see us and what we’re about.”
Some of the menu items that have excited customers have been the meatballs and hamburgers.
However, the most popular entree has been the meatloaf. Unlike traditional meatloaf, it is finished on a grill to “add a nice char on the outside,” according to Juniper.
But meat isn’t the only thing on the menu. There are vegan and vegetarian options like a plant-based burger, gnocchi stuffed acorn squash, macaroni and cheese, and cauliflower wings.
Of course, Cook & Craft has a selection of craft beers from local breweries like Four Peaks, SanTan Brewing Company, State 48, College Street and many more.
Juniper takes pride in its diverse range of local beer and big-name brewing companies.
“We like to support as many local breweries as possible, but we’re not so stuck up in the craft beer world where we won’t carry beers like Coors Light,” Juniper says.
With an expansive beer menu, Juniper also is proud of his cocktail offerings.
“I wanted our craft cocktails to be a nice variety that have all the spirits along with good presentation,” he says.
With an expansive menu of beverages and cuisine, Juniper is prideful that “there is not a dead item on the menu.”
Cook & Craft is looking to keep things evolving by opening a second location in the High Street area sometime in October.