Great Food and Great Art at the Starving Artist Cafe

If you find yourself hungry for something different, you might consider the Starving Artist Café. The downtown Easley restaurant bills itself as the most unique restaurant in Easley for being part restaurant, part art gallery. In the five years since it opened, the restaurant has garnered many accolades for both its food and its atmosphere.

The café has won several awards, from best Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day spot in Easley in the Patch Readers’ Choice Awards, to Best Art Gallery and Best Café in in a single year of the Best of the Upstate contest by the Greenville News. Starving Artist was also named the 2015 Small Business of the Year by the Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce just as it celebrated its five-year anniversary.

Owner Vicki Ciplickas opened the restaurant in 2011. A New Jersey native, she has taken an active leadership role in promoting local business as head of the Easley Downtown Business Association. She has served as the association’s president and is a vocal member of a committee advocating the extension of the scenic Doodle Trail.

The kitchen at The Starving Artist Café is headed by Chef Anne Young, a classically trained French chef from Baltimore International Culinary College. There is an emphasis on locally sourced food. Even the teas served at high tea are grown in South Carolina. The menu also caters to some specialty diets, offering completely vegan and macrobiotic plates. It has won an award for most vegetarian-friendly restaurant.

Even as Starving Artist is a home for art and boasts a highly trained chef, it’s clear that they do not take themselves too seriously. For instance, the restaurant offers a high tea service by reservation. But after describing the regal 19th century origins of this meal that comes after lunch and before dinner, the website lets it be known that “Hats are welcome, Tiaras are encouraged!”

Besides looking and eating, patrons also have opportunities to create their own art at Art & Vino events. But it’s not only visual arts that find a home at the Starving Artist. Students and teachers have met in the restaurant’s upstairs rooms to read and share poetry. What’s more, the background noise to all of the activity at Starving Artist often includes live music; jazz and acoustic sets make for a complete Friday or Saturday night out. The restaurant has also partnered with the Fine Arts Center of Easley to showcase emerging local bands or solo musicians, supporting the continued development of the local music scene.

In a notable departure from other eateries’ websites, the Starving Artist has a section for local news and often posts Easley news on its Facebook page. This shows a level of concern for what’s happening in the community beyond the immediate concerns of running a restaurant. It might contain posts about city planning, or where to see fireworks, or encouraging people to visit the farmers market.

The Chamber of Commerce might have summed up the Starving Artist Cafe best in a news brief announcing its Small Business of the Year Award. In their words, the restaurant was honored for being “a small business with a special entrepreneurial spirit, a unique marketing approach, or a special focus on the customer that results in a successful business…all while making time to actively serve the community.” That, in a nutshell, describes why the café is worth a visit for more than just a bite to eat.

 All photos courtesy of the Starving Artists Cafe.

Jennifer Oladipo is a writer in Greenville whose work appears in local and national publications.