They say home is where the heart is. For Mary and Marshall Gilmore, the desire to raise a family in a place that felt like home brought them back to Meridian, and to pour their hearts into building not only a home, but a restaurant. That restaurant is Harvest Grill, and they hope it becomes a place that comes to feel as welcoming as home for Meridianites.
Marshall, 33, grew up in Meridian, then studied business at the University of Mississippi. After graduation in 2004, he moved to Hawaii and got a job cooking on Waikiki Beach. In time, he found himself in Vail, Colorado, working at the Park Hyatt Resort in Beaver Creek and Terra Bistro, a fine dining establishment. After completing formal studies at Johnston & Wales in Denver, Marshall became a sous chef at the Gashouse, a wild game restaurant in the Vail Valley.
There, he met Mary, who owned a flower and gift shop. The two married in 2009, and in 2012, celebrated the birth of their son William. With their family expanded, the couple found themselves talking about moving back closer to home (Mary is originally from Arkansas). They wanted to “raise William like we grew up,” says Marshall.
With that in mind, Marshall called a buddy in Meridian who knew about commercial real estate, and he happened to have recently bought a building in downtown. The chef flew to Mississippi to look at the property, liked it, and the rest, as they say, is history. Mary sold her flower shop, and in July 2014, the family packed up, moved, and started renovations.
Opening the restaurant became a labor of love for the couple, who worked as a team on the effort. While Marshall took charge of the menu and back of the house, Mary created a story board of the environment the two envisioned – somewhere “warm, traditional and comfortable.”
Design-wise, the restaurant feels welcoming and homey, and includes a patio that seats 25 covered by an awning and ceiling fans. While upon entry, there’s a small bar and cocktail area, the focus is on food and fellowship. “We wanted to be a restaurant with a bar, not a bar with food,” explains Mary. Along those lines, she continues, “We don’t want a lot of color in the building; we want the food to be the color. The food pops, and everything else is monochromatic.”
That monochromatic color palette consists of blues and grays, with wood and accents of copper to keep a “warm, masculine, clean look.” Artwork is large-scale black and white landscapes of Mississippi, some by Reggie Thomas, a local photographer, along with two images of Marshall’s from his time in Colorado. The decor is sprinkled with nods to Colorado lodges, including bread baskets made from Aspen bark and a lodge-style gate out front.
The restaurant’s name is intended to feel warm and welcoming, too. Despite his travels out West, Marshall remained in touch throughout the years with a group of friends from high school who reunited annually to throw a party called the harvest. The Harvest was all about good food and fellowship, and Mary laughs as she recalls, “It always ended up with Marshall cooking the whole time.” For him, “If you have a good group of people and good food, you can’t beat that.” It seemed a natural name for a place they wanted to welcome guests. The couple discovered that the restaurant building used to house a restaurant called the Davis Grill, so they included “Grill” in the name in tribute to its history.
As for the couple’s history, the food reflects their time in Colorado, as well as the chef’s time in Hawaii. Harvest Grill serves what the chef calls “cross-country” cuisine that incorporates bits of pieces from his “adventures in the culinary world.” Those influences include citrus and fish from Hawaii and grilled meats from Colorado, but prepared with a Mississippi twist.
Mary relates that crawfish mashed potatoes are a big hit, but people also love the fresh ahi tuna, salmon, and cobia, a favorite of Marshall’s. The menu also includes vegetarian dishes like quinoa cups in a lettuce wrap with avocado balsamic tomatoes. The “Colorado Campfire” dessert, with house-made graham crackers and marshmallows, lets folks make their own s’mores and is a big hit among families with children and the young at heart.
From the bar, the Mississippi Mule provides a local take on the Moscow Mule cocktail. Harvest Grill’s version uses Mississippi distilled Cathead vodka and a house-made ginger beer.
Blending where they’ve come from with where they’re from, the Gilmores have created a place special to them that they hope becomes special for others as well. The venue recently booked its first wedding rehearsal dinner, so it will soon be an important part of another couple’s story – the first of many, they predict.
Story by Julie Skipper with photos provided by the Gilmores, article courtesy of Eat Drink Mississippi.