Setting the Table
Aftercare Café was launched to nourish tattoo artists who work long hours at Tattoo Plaza on Seaboard Street in Myrtle Beach, but it has evolved into a hot destination spot.
“There are 54 tattoo artists and 100 employees in this plaza,” Robert Lanz said on Dec. 18. He is a tattoo artist who owns Elite Ink Tattoos. “They work 12-hour shifts and eat all day long.”
Imagine what a restaurant would look like if three talented body artists were set loose to decorate it.
Lanz, his wife, April Lanz (whose skills include tattoo artistry and cosmetology), and their partner, Elite Body Piercing owner Guy Grinberg, spent four months turning the plaza’s northern end unit – a former garage – into a cozy and quirky enclave that’s kitschy fun. Regular customers range from tattoo seekers and gym owners to Grande Dunes residents.
Walls hung with local artists’ works are faux painted to evoke weathered antiquity, tabletops are like Salvador Dali collages and furniture either looks like 1960s retro or steam punk, like the metal locker Lanz bought from the Horry County Police Dept. and cut out the doors to look like steam punk gears.
The layout is quirky, with alcoves and nooks where customers can feel comfortable settling in to wait for their turn to be tattooed. Entertainment includes a television, a chessboard, Ms. Pacman, and conversations with the interesting and friendly staff and patrons. The 25-seat restaurant officially has four parking spaces, but Robert Lanz said customers can park anywhere along the plaza.
Down the Hatch
April Lanz is the chef, and her menu is full of creative, healthy and tasty choices, including plenty of vegetarian dishes. This is my favorite new restaurant of 2013.
Breakfast ($1-$10) is served all day with choices such as omelets, breakfast sandwiches and wraps, and pressed bagels and croissants (breads are from Benjamin’s Bakery in Surfside Beach). Wicked Waffles come in flavors including apple pie, double chocolate and red velvet, and the Waffle Taco is filled with house-made almond butter or peanut butter, a banana, honey and almonds or pecans.
A lot of body builders come in to fill up after workouts, Robert Lanz says, so they added hearty dishes including the Mexican Breakfast Pizza topped with bacon or sausage, egg, black beans, diced tomato, avocado and cheeses; and The Kitchen Sink, which is a four-egg omelet crammed with bacon, ham, sausage, onion, green peppers and cheeses served with home fries and toast.
The rest of the menu is a variety of sandwiches, wraps and salads that sell for $4-$9. Instead of mayonnaise, the chef uses Greek yogurt, and she prides herself on procuring premium healthy ingredients.
I tried the roasted beet and honeyed goat cheese sandwich and thoroughly enjoyed its mellow sweetness. Fresh spinach is in there along with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and April Lanz presses her sandwiches to make them delectably crunchy.
The black bean and pimento cheeseburger also had a pressed bun, and I loved how Lanz didn’t go into overkill with her house-made pimento cheese. There was just enough spread on the top bun to add moisture, flavor and a creamy texture.
One of the café’s best sellers, Robert Lanz said, is the blue Buffalo grilled cheese with grilled chicken, blue cheese, cream cheese, Cheddar and a toned-down Buffalo sauce on pressed sourdough. A few more sandwiches are tuna melt, fried bologna, chicken salad, roast beef and Cheddar, and sweet Thai chicken.
Diners are welcome to order customized sandwiches from a list of ingredients, and all sandwiches are served with Cape Cod chips, a dill pickle spear and a side dish. Those sides are mashed sweet potatoes, pasta salad, black beans, cilantro-lime rice and potato salad. I tried the rice, which was delicious with subtle flavors, and the excellent potato salad that has a peppery punch.
A couple of the cafe’s wraps are the turkey orchard with turkey, spinach, provolone, thinly sliced apples and house-made honey mustard; and the holiday wrap (available year-round) with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, spinach and cream cheese. Five salads include tuna, chicken, chef, Greek and house.
Beverages include a variety of coffees – French press, latte, Jamaican – sodas, hot green tea, apple or orange juice, energy drinks, Yoo-Hoo and Muscle Milk.
For dessert, April Lanz has a case filled with her hand-made sweets (she even makes the chocolate) such as goat cheese truffles, chocolate/nut/fruit tartlets, raspberry almond fudge, peanut butter banana pops and coconut/chocolate drops that are like Almond Joy taken to the 10th power.
Expansion plans include adding a dinner menu, and building a deck out back with a barbecue pit where acoustic artists will perform.
Becky Billingsley serves up fresh news daily at MyrtleBeachRestaurantNews.com.