Fired Up

As a kid growing up in Santa Maria, Calif., Scott Cleeton enjoyed the weekend barbecues his parents hosted. Friends would arrive with bottles of wine to sip and food to throw on his family’s big, wood-fired grill.

“It really made for a fun experience,” Cleeton says. “People laughed and stood around the grill as they cooked and drank wine. It was just a neat experience.”

After his father passed away last October, Cleeton needed a way to keep his mind occupied. He wanted to emulate the weekend barbecues his parents hosted. That led Cleeton, the chef behind the popular CC’s City Broiler, to open Broil, a tapas-style steakhouse, in March.

A large “BROIL” sign rests on a wall above the restaurant’s seven tables. Burgundy walls and low-key lighting make the small steakhouse feel even cozier. A wine bar surrounds a cooking area, allowing Cleeton and the other cooks to engage and entertain the guests as they work — one of the aspects Cleeton loves most.

Nestled inside a shopping complex at 4603 John Garry Drive, the restaurant would have gone undetected in south Columbia if it weren’t for dollar margarita nights at Las Margaritas across the street, Cleeton says.

“I tried to find the worst location in Columbia,” Cleeton says with a laugh. “I just really wanted this to be a challenge.”

Tackling challenges extends beyond location for Cleeton. Broil’s menu is constantly changing; new dishes are added and subtracted on a weekly basis. Every day, there’s a nightly feature or a new item not listed on the menu.

Broil offers affordable delicacies; Cleeton says dishes range from $7 to $20, with the average cost running $12 to $14. Almost everything is entrée-portioned, but served on an elongated platter that invites guests to share each dish among themselves, much like the weekend barbecues of his childhood.

Cleeton, who has owned and operated CC’s City Broiler for the last 20 years, says Broil maintains a few similarities to his original steakhouse.

“A lot of the same cooking styles have been brought here from CC’s — the same style of seasoning, the open-pit fire,” Cleeton says. “But our method of serving and the way that we plate and present is totally different.”

Since Broil is so small, Cleeton and his team are able to “mess around” with the menu and prepare dishes that would be impossible to pull off at CC’s, he says. Broil’s sous-vide style lamb is a three-step dish, which requires the racks to soak in a water bath for four hours before they are seared and seasoned. The meat then returns to the water bath for another 50 minutes before it is served. Cleeton says it’s one of Broil’s most popular dishes, and one that he is most proud.

“We can’t do that dish at CC’s because we’re just too busy,” Cleeton says. “So here, with having only seven tables and having a limited menu, we can prepare that thing sous-vide style anytime.”

Broil also serves lobster, steak and swordfish. Cleeton describes his new enterprise as an “anti-chain,” adding that its small size allows the restaurant to work with local farmers markets.

“I could literally do something different every single day, really, for the whole menu if I wanted to,” Cleeton says.

In the future, Cleeton plans to focus on Broil and, despite others’ suggestions of taking his steakhouses on the road, remain in Columbia, which he says has been good to him and to CC’s for the last 20 years. Columbia has taken well to Broil, Cleeton says, and he looks forward to seeing it grow.

“CC’s is more of just a machine; we do what we do and we play the hits. You’re coming for the hits,” Cleeton says. “This is sort of a new album for us. It’s still the same sound, it’s also the same band — just different songs.”
Learn more about Broil on the restaurant’s Facebook page:

Learn more about Broil on the restaurant’s Facebook page: