written by Andi Agnew
Preparing for the evening’s customers, Dave Grenley is rolling silverware behind the bar at CAET when his wife, Elise, joins him.
The two have been with the wine bar since it opened. Elise, 33, is general manager and Dave, 36, serves as Wine Director — not only for CAET but also for its sister restaurants, Walker’s and Local 463.
Originally from Greenwood, Elise met Dave (a native of Edmonds, Washington) while they were in Oxford, working for two different restaurants under Chef John Currence. She was assistant general manager at Snack Bar while Dave was bar manager at City Grocery. Elise had lived in Jackson for nine years before moving to Oxford to take the job at Snack Bar.
“I knew Derek and Jennifer (Emerson, owners of Walker’s, CAET and Local 463) from my prior time in Jackson,” Elise said. “When we heard that they were going to open CAET, I got in touch with Derek to see if he needed help. He offered me the GM position and Dave the wine director position, and we’ve been here ever since.”
As Wine Director, Dave has to know the wine list backwards and forwards — not only to assist customers, but also to train the staff in wine selection. “Dave’s the only one who really knows every single wine on the list, because it’s ever-changing and a lot to keep up with,” Elise said. “Sometimes people will pronounce something differently, and that confuses the server, and then the server second-guesses himself, so I’m here to help try to avoid that kind of thing,” Dave adds. Elise handles all the day-to-day operations, from scheduling and hiring staff and ordering supplies to small details, like making sure each table has salt and pepper.
While some couples would balk at the idea of working together on top of living together, Elise and Dave say that it is not an issue. “We work together really well. I don’t think we’ve ever really had any challenges with that,” Elise said.
“We have the same overall belief in how service is supposed to be handled, how customers are supposed to be treated, and how people are supposed to work together. It’s pretty much the same core belief that Derek and Jen have, which is why you see the same attention to service throughout all three restaurants,” Dave said.
When asked what they think sets CAET apart from other area restaurants, Dave says, “We have a pretty involved cocktail program, a ton of local beers, a broad range of liquor and also a very extensive wine list. A lot of places don’t want to do that or aren’t able — Walker’s doesn’t have a cocktail list, for example.”
Elise points out the diverse menu — ranging from small plates of fries and shrimp corndogs — to a dinner portion of filet. Each have their place, with a popular five dollar happy hour from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and larger portions for those who want to sit down with a bottle of wine and dinner.
While CAET is known for being a wine bar, Dave wants customers to know the experience at CAET is not exclusive to the genre. “It’s not wine with an attitude — but if you want to come in and get a very rare bottle of wine while your buddy drinks a Budweiser, we can accommodate all of that.”
As for their own favorite wines or dishes, Dave cites the Olivier Leflaive Puligny Montrachet as a current favorite: “It’s French Chardonnay — it’s amazing and wonderful. I hope we can get people drinking more French wine.”Â The couple both named the Cauliflower Saganaki — a plank of roasted cauliflower topped with seared feta and roasted tomatoes — as a favorite.
“We still get new people who are very curious about it and are always pleasantly surprised by it. That was one of the few dishes that Derek actually had in mind before we even finished construction on this place,” Dave said.
The Supper Club
is a family-style private dining event held once per month. The meal includes wine pairings with five to six courses. “Everybody comes in and we do farm tables… usually it’s me picking budget wines. I try to always do wines that people can go and get around Jackson,” Dave said. “I talk to each table as I pour the wine — Jackson has a lot of savvy wine drinkers and wine collectors. It’s a fun group of people.”
Elise adds, “Usually after someone comes once, they want to be added to the list and come back each time. We wanted it to be fun, not stuffy or snotty. And it’s affordable, plus the food is amazing.Â We can adjust dishes for our customer’s needs as well — we have a couple who is pescetarian, so Derek will do a vegetarian or seafood dish for them.”
Reservations for Supper Club are first-come first-serve and can be made through the website, caetwinebar.com.