Restaurateurs return home
The timing couldn’t have been worse for Brooke Bishop and her husband, Greg Stein. Wishing to be closer to family, the couple moved from Charleston, South Carolina, to Muncy this spring with plans to open a new restaurant.
“We moved here at the end of March and closed on the property on April 6, right at the beginning of COVID,” said Bishop.
That was just around the same time that Pennsylvania — and the rest of the United States — was shutting down restaurants, bars and stores, hoping to lessen the spread of COVID-19.
Despite a rocky start, the pair had the experience and ingenuity to forge ahead.
Refusing to let the pandemic prevent them from realizing their dream, Bishop and Stein worked within the parameters set by the government and managed to open the doors of Basil Wood Fired Grill and Lounge in Muncy.
The name was inspired by Bishop’s favorite herb, which also inspires a lot of her dishes.
“We will be utilizing fresh herbs, which elevates the flavor. Basil will be one of the staples in most of our foods,” she said.
Bishop is a graduate of Penn State University, where she earned a degree in hotel/restaurant/institutional management. She said that her role includes marketing and sales for the business, as well as, generating recipes. Stein graduated from Gannon University. He handles the staff management, overall operations and kitchen operations.
“I’ve always loved to cook. I grew up in a family where my mom and grandmother made everything from scratch, did canning, etc.,” she said. “My sister taught me a lot of the basics, though all formal training was with PSU.”
Bishop also went to Leon, France and studied there, where she obtained hands-on culinary experience. In time, they decided to move south.
“We moved to Charleston to gain more experience after we graduated,” said Bishop. “Greg worked for a four diamond property and I took culinary classes and worked for an off-premise catering company before we started our own catering company.”
They built that business up and were catering 120 weddings per year.
“We were one of the top catering companies in Charleston,” she said.
When they decided it was time to move back home, they sought out a unique space that would allow them to continue to build on their dream. They found that space at 213 N. Main Street, Muncy, home to the former fire hall and carnival grounds. Here, they intend to do major renovations and eventually plan to hold special events. The pandemic has forced them to put those plans on the back burner for now but hasn’t kept them from offering something new and different in the area.
“We held our first Sunday brunch farmer’s market in June,” said Bishop. “It went really well.”
But with rules and regulations continually changing, she admits that it’s been a little crazy.
“We have intentions to work with architects to redesign. The space is huge -10,000 square feet – so it’s a blank slate for us,” said Bishop. “It is a really unique space,” she explained. “You walk into the main entrance and there is another room that has three large windows wall to wall. We had a sliding glass window installed, which allowed us to open a temporary bar area. People can place an order to go and then wait outside.”
Once they’re up and running full speed, this will be the area where people can purchase zero contact food orders to go.
While it hasn’t been easy, Bishop said that they are managing.
Opening during a pandemic has been difficult for staffing,” she conceded. “We needed to train servers, and train for quality and consistency.”
However, with their catering backgrounds, they were able to start family-style pick up orders.
“The first time we offered it we had 160 people order,” she said.
She credits social media marketing for the success in attracting business during this unusual time.
“As we’ve progressed, we’ve focused on getting our outdoor space set up.”
At Basil, she acts as the executive chef, where she creates the recipes. She and her husband make a good team, she said.
“It’s my ideas and his execution,” she said.
What, exactly, are her ideas? She offers patrons top of the line food that is fresh and made from scratch.
“Around here, we noticed it’s all the same with processed foods, cheesesteaks, burgers, etc,” said Bishop. “We thought there needed to be a lighter, fresher option. There is definitely a need here and we will be doing things you don’t see on other menus.”
That includes items like Farmer’s boards, which offer a nice combination of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, artisan breads and tomato strawberry bruschetta, for example.
Currently, Basil is offering a small menu featuring dishes that reflect summer. For example, offerings include watermelon arugula salad, fresh vine ripened tomatoes, seafood options and summer veggie herb salad. Once the wood fired oven is complete, wood fired wings, pizzas and flatbreads will be available.
“The wood fired oven will allow us to make great pizzas, meats and vegetables to really bring out flavors,” said Bishop.
Future plans include an inside dining room (Bishop has her fingers crossed that can happen this fall) and opening the Lucky Lore, which will be a basic bar with food and games.
For more information or to view current menu offerings, check out the Facebook page for Basil Wood Fired Grill and Lounge.