The inside of Waynesville’s 44 Church Street does not, today, bustle with life, warmth and the scintillating scent of food wafting through the air, as it once did. The former home of the storied Lomo Grill is cold and empty; the open wood oven is not fired up, and chairs and tables are stacked in a corner, across from an empty bar and a kitchen counter cluttered with what looks like detritus from a hardware-store explosion. But this is not the start of another sad story on small businesses shuttering. This is the opposite story, one of success leading, hopefully, to new success. Enter Kaighn Raymond, an Atlanta chef renowned for opening award-winning restaurants in the Southern metropolis. Raymond had long dreamed of opening his own place and his eye on Waynesville from the time his parents moved here. He and his wife, Tania even got married in Maggie Valley.
But his culinary career required him to stay in Atlanta, building up enough experience and capital to branch out of the city and into his own venture. His new spot, which will be called Frog’s Leap Public House, will feature, he said, a local atmosphere with tasty, local food at affordable prices. He’s interested in serving farm-to-table fare that showcases local farmers as much as possible, offering a simple menu that captures the flavor of its location. But first, there is work to be done. Raymond is giving much of the restaurant an overhaul in anticipation of a spring opening. As he walked through the empty restaurant, he rattled off a laundry list of renovations and repairs, from floors and ceilings to new dishwashers and upgraded bathrooms. The drip buckets aren’t for leaks, but are catching the aftermath of an overall hose-down Raymond had given the kitchen with a pressure washer. The old water heaters had been replaced with new, and new coats of paint were starting to make their way up walls in the basement.