Josh Beeby first encountered an authentic Belgian restaurant on a return visit to his homeland of Sydney, Australia. It made a such a distinct impression that Beeby knew he wanted to one day open such a restaurant in the U.S.
“It’s been in the back of my head for a long time,” says Beeby, longtime manager of Barley’s Taproom before he purchased that restaurant recently.
Finally, he knew the time had come to act. He took his wife with him on a research trip to Belgium before taking the big jump.
“When we were in Belgium, pretty much all our favorite restaurants or bars throughout the entire countries were in basements with no windows, low ceilings, hundreds of years old, with tons of character,” Beeby says.
He decided that was the vibe he wanted, too, and began to scour Greenville’s downtown for the perfect spot. Coincidentally, the spot was beneath his feet the entire time. The Trappe Door set up shop in what used to be an unused basement beneath Barley’s.
“It was dirty and run-down,” Beeby said. “Employees at Barley’s would take their smoke breaks down here. One day it just clicked that we not only had the coolest space in Greenville to do this, but we were already paying rent on it.”
Beeby put a lot of work into the space, and the result is about as close as he could have hoped to the character-packed basement vibe he was shooting for. The ceilings, with their exposed beams, are noticeably low—not that you’ll bump your head or anything. The walls are exposed brick, the floor concrete, and true to character, there are no windows.
The menu is an eclectic mix of traditional Belgian dishes and more familiar fare. The most obvious area of Belgian influence is the emphasis on the country’s national dish, Moules Frites (pronounced mool freet). The name is French for mussels and fries, and the Trappe Door offers six varieties, served in 1 ½-pound bowls along with a bowl of hand-cut fries.
“There’s not a restaurant in Belgium you can’t get a big two-pound bowl of mussels,” Beeby says. “It’s very social eating. You get in and get your hands dirty.”
On the bar side of things, the emphasis is on the highest-quality Belgian beers, and the Trappe Door offers about 160 of them. A rotating tap houses 10 beers at a time, and another 150 are available by the bottle. One of Beeby’s favorite bits of commentary on Belgian beer came from renowned English journalist Michael Jackson (no, not that one).
“He traveled the world drinking beer,” Beeby says. “He once said, ‘The reverence reserved for wine in most countries is in Belgium accorded to beer.’ You very rarely see anyone in Belgium drinking anything other than beer.”
Belgian beers, Beeby said, often taste more earthy, with a hint of spice, than traditional beers most Americans are used to. Another unique offering at the bar is a handful of types of absinthe, a popular European drink from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that is currently enjoying a resurgence.
“People love it,” Beeby says. “We can’t keep up with the demand right now.”
For more, check out our photo tour of The Trappe Door.