We’re eternally looking out for the newest and hottest restaurant openings around the South, and this year has been filled with plenty of exciting developments and culinary adventures — it’s nearly impossible to experience them all. However, we take special note — and move them to the top of our prioritized list — when these openings have those with stellar reputations at their helms. Take, for example, these three new restaurants that have opened their doors in the last several months (or hours!) across the South. With James Beard Award finalists and nationally recognized and admired names creating, guiding and ultimately leading the way, we are confident in recommending these three spots as must-visit Southern restaurants to experience first-hand.

Bow & Arrow  — Auburn, Alabama

1977 E Samford Ave, Auburn, AL 36830 • (334) 246-2546
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Chef and owner David Bancroft proudly opened the doors to Bow & Arrow just yesterday! The highly anticipated restaurant comes from the beloved chef and owner of Acre restaurant in Auburn, Alabama. A unique concept, David says the restaurant can be described as a Texas smokehouse meets Alabama potluck. “We encourage family-style ordering and passing food at the table,” he shares. “Texas-style meats are cut by hand from the pit, weighed on scales and served with freshly made flour tortillas or white bread.”

Entering Bow & Arrow, restaurant-goers will encounter an automated tortilla press, freshly making what they will soon devour. Beyond the press, they’ll start in the serving line, or potluck, where they’re guided by a huge chalkboard listing the myriad options to fill their tray. Meat-focused and meat-centric, guests have a selection of slow-smoked brisket, ribs, sausages, chicken and more from which to choose … ensuring that no carnivore goes hungry. The sides, ranging from savory tater tot casserole to potato salad, collard greens and mac ‘n cheese, are Southern specialties sure to impress.

The butcher paper-lined trays are piled with mouth-watering meats and sides created by Chef David. Image: Stephen DeVries

With all of these tempting options, we had to ask the man himself what he chooses to eat at the new college-town hotspot. David tells us, “It’s hard to choose just one, but I am most excited about the brisket. This is what I cut my teeth on (small pun intended) when first learning to barbeque in Texas for my high school friends.” Brisket, it is!

Opening a second restaurant, David says, was a feat that one of his restaurateur friends warned him was their hardest project. “Opening in the middle of SEC football season has also presented some logistical challenges, to say the least, but we have great teams at both locations that have risen to the occasion and have accepted additional responsibilities with grace and ease. I definitely couldn’t have done it without them.”

If the chef says to order the brisket … we’re going for it! Image: Stephen DeVries

You can expect the usual Southern suspects, like mac ‘n cheese and potato salad, as well as unique twists like this tater tot casserole. Image: Stephen DeVries

David tells us that the ultimate goal for his two restaurants, while different in execution, is exactly the same. “It is always my hope that people enjoy the moments they have with us while dining with their family and friends. We have a unique opportunity to show love through food and hospitality. Every single person that comes through our doors is a part of our family, too.”

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Melfi’s — Charleston, SC

721 King St, Charleston, SC 29403 • (843) 513-0307
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Certainly no stranger to the industry, with Leon’s, Little Jack’s Tavern and Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. on his list of delicious accomplishments, Brooks Reitz recently debuted his latest. Melfi’s, a clubby Italian restaurant, is situated on the corner of King and Race streets in Charleston and serves a variety of small Italian snacks, straightforward entrées and a thin crust-style pizza. Brooks tells us, “Our intention was to make a grown-up room where you felt cool and comfortable, and just fancy enough to make you sit up straight.”

Brooks thoughtfully approached the concept — with atmosphere and vibe strongly considered. The building was formerly Melfi’s Pharmacy, owned by an Italian family who moved to Charleston in the late 1800s. That piece of history helped shape the restaurant’s trajectory and gave it its name. For the branding, Brooks says, “I liked the idea of a signature — something that felt vaguely handwritten and connected the place to the real family that once inhabited the space — almost like it was pulled from an old invoice or an old note.”

Brooks tells us, “I’m partial to the art, which we bought in Rome at a small store called Chez Dede. The artist and his wife operate the shop and sell his drawings.”

Barstools with views of the pizza ovens are among the most covetable seats in the house.

The light-filled space has an air of sophistication. White tablecloths and old-school lamps on the tables lend an early ’50s kind of vibe. Guests arrive and feel at ease — immediately comfortable and ready to enjoy an evening out.

Of course, this intentionality carries seamlessly over into the menu, which is peppered with classic Italian dishes. Guests can start with zucchini friti, bruschetta, a number of mouthwatering salads (including a sort of spicy Caesar calling our names) before diving into the traditional pasta dishes, Roman-ish pizzas and Italian-style entrées. For Brooks, it’s all about the Vitello Tonnato. “It’s a traditional dish from the Piedmont region of poached veal topped with a tuna sauce. It’s a cold dish and is such a spectacular combination. People are hesitant to try it based on the combination of ingredients, but everyone loves it. My standby is the Vittelo Tonnato with the big green salad and a clam pizza for dinner.”

Find negronis, shakeratos, spritzes and thoughtfully crafted cocktails on the menu at Melfi’s.

Melfi’s joins Brooks Reitz’s list of deliberate and delicious contributions to Charleston.

Melfi’s provides the answer for any occasion. Grab a seat at the pizza counter for a view of all the action, cozy up in a booth for a romantic date night, grab a drink at the bar and chat with the bartender, or meet friends for evening of food and cocktails that you’ll be talking about until your next visit.

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Watchman’s — Atlanta, GA

99 Krog St NE Suite Y, Atlanta, GA 30307 • (404) 254-0141
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday, 5 p.m. to midnight; Saturday, noon to midnight; Sunday, noon to 11 p.m.; Monday, closed

From the team behind Atlanta’s beloved Kimball House, Watchman’s is a seafood restaurant new to Krog Street Market. Serving sustainable seafood, with a focus on Gulf seafood, they’ve made a splash on the scene. An ambiance reminiscent of trips to the Gulf growing up, there’s a tinge of nostalgia in the air — perfectly balanced by a casual style that is fresh and vibrant.

The beachy vibe is comfortably stylish. Image: Andrew Thomas Lee

While the menu changes daily, each visit must begin with oysters. Not just because they’re one of our favorite ways to start a meal, but because oysters were the springboard for the creation of Watchman’s.

Jesse Smith, one of the four partners at Watchman’s tells us, “A big part of our inspiration was the growing farmed oyster community in the southeast. One of our partners, Bryan Rackley, who does our oyster buying, actually started a nonprofit called Oyster South with Bill Walton, who is the oyster aquaculture extension specialist for Auburn University. Together, they help to promote and raise funds for up and coming oyster farmers. These relationships opened our eyes to how much good seafood was coming from the South, and it made sense for our next venture to help celebrate what was happening in our backyard.”

Changing with the seasons, a variety of Southern oysters adorn the menu, enticing guests to try one of each. Jesse himself says that oysters are a no-brainer when it comes to ordering well at Watchman’s. And while we agree, the oyster-averse will find plenty of other Southern seafood on the menu.

“There are some things that have naturally become mainstays like our clam dish with vermouth and chili butter broth,” Jesse tells us. “Personally I’m partial to raw seafood and love crudo or tartare that Chef Daniel Chance has on the menu.” SB TIP: If Caper’s Blades are on the nightly oyster rotation, don’t miss them!

Don’t sleep on the oyster selection at Watchman’s. Image: Andrew Thomas Lee

Corn hush puppies with hot honey … drool-worthy! Image: Andrew Thomas Lee

A second project for these restaurateurs, they were confident that the Kimball House team was so well-equipped and talented that spending less time there and more at Watchman’s would be no problem – noting, like David, that it wouldn’t have been possible without the staff at restaurant number one.

Jesse says, “One of our main goals with Kimball House was to create something that was timeless, and we always consider whether or not the food and drink make sense for the space that we created. Watchman’s was a chance for us to break some of our own rules while still maintaining our dedication to quality ingredients and the techniques that we have developed.”

Watchman’s is a welcomed taste of rebellion — one you’ll want to revisit regularly.

The red snapper with charred onion, olive relish, chermoula | Image: Andrew Thomas Lee

*****

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