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Keep scrolling, as this article is updated with new restaurants each month. Currently, we have 15 new restaurants to check out in total!

January 2022

Charleston and New Orleans have to be on any shortlist of great Southern restaurant cities, and two new additions to their dining scenes have only cemented this vaunted status. Consider either (or both!) of them when you’re planning your next culinary adventure.

Worth the Drive: 2 New Restaurants in the South

Bijou Restaurant and Bar

1014 North Rampart Street, New Orleans, LA 70116 • (504) 603-0557
Hours: Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Closed Monday and Tuesday

In New Orleans, it’s not uncommon for the main topic of conversation at lunch to be plans for dinner. Food is an essential and social part of life for residents of The Big Easy, and lingering lunches over tables stacked high with shared small plates is a favorite way to while away an afternoon.

At Bayona, the local fixture helmed by legendary chef Susan Spicer, Chef Eason Barksdale ran the kitchen for years after a stint working in Spicer’s other restaurant, Mondo. One of his responsibilities was developing the menus for Bayona’s popular Saturday lunch services, a talent that has come in handy at his latest venture, Bijou Restaurant and Bar, where he essentially re-creates the international tapas lunch experience over dinner.

Chef Eason Barksdale of Bijou Restaurant and Bar, a new Southern restaurant

Chef Eason Barksdale working the pass at Bijou | Image: Bijou Restaurant and Bar

Bijou is located in a charming early 20th-century Creole cottage on the northern edge of the French Quarter, easily walkable from the neighborhood’s hotels and nearby Faubourg Marigny and Central Business District. The cozy building has been renovated into a hip, modern space with striking light fixtures and contemporary art dominating the decor. The restaurant has two separate bars — because this is New Orleans, after all — and a fairly expansive courtyard for outdoor seating when the weather allows. Frequent visitors to New Orleans are aware that some of the most magical moments on any trip to the Big Easy often occur in courtyards.

Interior bar at Bijou Restaurant and Bar

Bijou’s bar flows naturally onto the courtyard, as do many bar patrons. Image: Bijou Restaurant and Bar

Courtyard at Bijou Restaurant and Bar, a new Southern restaurant

If these walls could talk! Image: Bijou Restaurant and Bar

RELATED: The Culinary Trail You Haven’t Heard About

Chef Barksdale has designed a tight menu of small, internationally inspired plates for sharing, and it’s not uncommon for a four-top to simply order the entire menu and settle in for a gastronomic journey around the globe. Of the 10 items on the regular menu (plus two desserts … don’t ever forget dessert!), Barksdale manages to split his influences across almost every continent. Asia is represented by a tuna tartare with ponzu, avocado, shiso, and vegetables served with sesame wontons for scooping. The Tom Yum Chicken is reminiscent of the famous Thai soup of the same name, featuring fried chicken topped with spicy lime, ginger, and lemongrass and served with a side of Vietnamese “ranch” dipping sauce. The traditional Asian shrimp roll gets a decidedly ‘Louisiana’ update with butter-poached shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico and a Creole mayo.

The culinary capitals of Europe are also well-represented on the Bijou menu in an antipasto course of fried artichokes with arugula, pesto, salty prosciutto, and mozzarella. A headlining squid pasta dish features more shrimp plus herb white wine butter sauce and Castelvetrano olives to add a little salinity.

Tuna tartare at Bijou Restaurant and Bar

Crispy sesame wontons are perfect for scooping up the tuna tartare at Bijou. Image: Bijou Restaurant and Bar

Food and drink spread from Bijou Restaurant and Bar, a new Southern restaurant

Enjoy the casual refined elegance of Bijou. Image: Bijou Restaurant and Bar

Champagne cocktail from Bijou Restaurant and Bar

Everything’s better with bubbles! Image: Bijou Restaurant and Bar

The classic steak frites at Bijou are familiar with their crispy fries and aioli, but global touches include the use of wagyu beef and a South American chimichurri sauce. Another map-mashup is the popular Gruyere gougères (say that five times fast!) made with bacon, cheese, and pickled onions.

South Asia makes an appearance on the Bijou menu in the form of curried cauliflower served with a southern Indian version of a dosa called an uttapam and a raita dipping sauce. Of course, any great “lunch for dinner” spot needs a solid burger, and Bijou delivers with a two-patty smashburger with all the expected toppings like grilled onions and cheese on a potato bun. Finish your culinary odyssey with a plate of assorted cookies or a café au lait pot de crème for a truly memorable meal that can stretch out for hours like the locals do it. (We told you not to miss out on dessert!)

Cookies from Bijou Restaurant and Bar, a new Southern restaurant

The dessert menu is short, but outstanding. Image: Bijou Restaurant and Bar

Brasserie la Banque

1 Broad St., Charleston, SC 29401 • (843) 779-1800
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Closed Sunday and Monday

Noted restaurateur Steve Palmer has earned a stellar reputation through his Indigo Road Hospitality Group, known for popular spots around the South such as Oak Steakhouse, O-Ku Sushi, Indaco, The Kingstide, and others. For his latest venture, Palmer turns his attention to France with Brasserie la Banque, a neighborhood French restaurant in Charleston’s historic South of Broad district.

As its name indicates, the restaurant is in a former bank building that dates back to the 1700s, when the French Huguenots were an important part of the city’s early history. After a long delay in opening, Brasserie la Banque finally began welcoming guests in late November, and early reviews of Chef Jeb Aldrich’s straight-ahead menu of classic French bistro fare have been overwhelmingly positive.

Chef Jeb Aldrich of Brasserie la Banque

Chef Jeb Aldrich brings a world of experience to the kitchen at Brasserie la Banque. Image: Andrew Cebulka

The space definitely exudes the brasserie vibe, with flexible seating options of bright red leather booths, banquettes, green velvet chairs situated around bistro tables with wrought-iron bases, and dramatic lighting fixtures to augment the natural light streaming in through tall windows. Thoughtful details like brass rails and delicately filigreed accents around the ceiling complete the illusion of a trip to Paris.

Elegant without being stuffy, Brasserie la Banque showcases traditional French dishes alongside some more modern interpretations from the mind of Chef Aldrich, who has cooked in prestigious kitchens around the world.

Interior of Brasserie la Banque, a new Southern restaurant

The bistro vibe is strong at Brasserie la Banque. Image: Andrew Cebulka

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Taking advantage of the oceanic bounty around Charleston, Aldrich’s menu kicks off with a strong selection of crudités and fruits de mer, which naturally revolve around regional seafood. The selection of oysters rotates with the market, as they should, and shrimp and crab figure prominently in other appetizers. The traditional Northern staple lobster roll gets a little dab of the South with a slathering of Duke’s mayonnaise.

Great seafood also shows up among the entree choices as the base of loaded bouillabaisse and the main component of a halibut plate poached in olive oil and served with a crispy mushroom confit, broccolini, and bone marrow matelote sauce.

Brasserie la Banque's Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse and a crispy baguette make for classic French cuisine. Image: Andrew Cebulka

Landlubbers and Francophiles alike will be delighted by the hors d’oeuvres section of the menu that highlights prototypical French cuisine such as French onion soup, a salad of frisée with bacon lardons, beef tartare, black cocoa-cured foie gras, and a delicate duck consommé. Poultry is also the star of two delightful main course options, the poulet rouge served with a dark chicken jus and a cassoulet of confit aged duck with vegetables. Finally, no brasserie worth its sel would offer a menu without a proper steak frites dish, and Aldrich delivers with a Certified Angus Beef coulotte cut served alongside pommes frites and their special “banque sauce.”

Duck consommé from Brasserie la Banque, a new Southern restaurant

A bowl of duck consommé over mushrooms and foie dumplings is a decadent treat. Image: Andrew Cebulka

Brasserie la Banque's Poulet Rouge

The crispy poulet rouge is a solid dinner choice. Image: Andrew Cebulka

The talented pastry department at Brasserie la Banque comes up with special desserts on a whim, so be sure to ask to see what’s coming out of the kitchen — and if it’s the crepe cake with more layers than a Proust novel, don’t miss out on that particular treat. For a nightcap, consider heading downstairs to Bar Vauté, the Brasserie’s “bar clandestin” that is one of the only subterranean establishments in Charleston, a city that’s known for occasional flooding. You might want to check your weather app before venturing below ground, though.

With Brasserie la Banque, Steve Palmer looks like he’s got another smash hit on his hands, thanks to his fanatical dedication to hospitality and Aldrich’s worldly kitchen experience.

Crepe cake from Brasserie la Banque, a new Southern restaurant

The delicate layers of the crepe cake are delightful! Image: Andrew Cebulka

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December 2021

While these two new Southern restaurants have similar names, Canje and Carne Mare could hardly be more dissimilar, except for the fact that both offer ingenious and creative international cuisines that take diners through a tour of exotic locales. Whether it’s a trip to the Caribbean or a survey of Italy, these restaurants are welcome additions to the capitals of Texas and Tennessee.

Worth the Drive: 2 New Restaurants in the South

Canje

1914 E 6th St., Suite C, Austin, TX 78702 • (512) 706-9119
Hours: Sunday through Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight

Among the excellent dining options in Austin, there has been a glaring need for Afro-Caribbean food, a hole that has now been appropriately filled by Canje, led by Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph. Fresh off of being named a 2020 Best New Chef by Food and Wine, the chef has reached back to his roots growing up in Guyana to bring an exciting new cuisine to the Texas capital.

Guyana is a unique country, the only officially English-speaking nation in South America and connected as much to the nearby Caribbean islands as to the rest of the continent. Bristol-Joseph named his new restaurant after the national bird of his home country, and his elevated Caribbean cuisine has certainly taken flight.

Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph of Canje, a new Southern restaurant

Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph brings a sense of joy to his kitchen at Canje. Image: Canje

The design scheme of Canje is definitely tropical, with lots of natural wood and rattan accents and an entire wall covered with a mural of jungle palm fronds. The cozy restaurant seats about a hundred lucky patrons plus a couple dozen more if you book the private dining room.

Soak in the decor while you wait for your table at the colorful bar that features a cocktail program emphasizing fruity tropical drinks, but not the overly sweet concoctions you might be used to. Rather than bumping up the sugar content, the mixologists at Canje allow the natural tropical flavors of fruits like passionfruit and citrus to shine through as part of complex cocktails that add appropriate amounts of bitterness and salinity to elevate the drinks. A custom curry-infused gin is the base spirit for the Curry Wata, spicing up the blend of rum, mango-apple chutney, orange and lemon. The lovely Island Hopping cocktail features vodka and the traditional Brazilian spirit of cachaca along with herbal Cappelletti aperitivo and delicate mint, hibiscus, honey and lemon. It’s a great way to kick off your tropical dining excursion.

Interior of Canje

The dramatic palm wall puts diners in an island mood. Image: Canje

Bar at Canje, a new Southern restaurant

The bright and airy rum-centric bar at Canje boasts some really talented mixologists. Image: Canje

Cocktail from Canje

Fresh fruits are at the center of every drink at Canje. Image: Canje

RELATED: Grand Southern Hotels Decked Out for the Holidays

Chef Bristol-Joseph is your cruise director on this expedition that showcases Guyanese and Caribbean influences ranging from Puerto Rico to Jamaica. The appetizer section of the menu is titled “Wah Gwaan,” Jamaican patois for “How ya’ doin’?” A definite must-try is the staple of fried green plantain chips, omnipresent at dinner tables around the Caribbean. Canje’s version rises above the ordinary with the addition of a remarkable mango calypso hot dipping sauce, created by grating mangos, cooking them with chiles, and allowing them to ferment a bit before adding more fresh grated mango. If that’s a little spicy and funky for your taste, Bristol-Joseph thoughtfully also includes another dipping sauce of a blend of ketchup and a pork fat mayonnaise. The chef combines his homeland with his current home in another lovely shareable app of Texas melons and tropical fruits topped with basic and aji Amarillo chile.

Food spread from Canje, a new Southern restaurant

The colorful cuisine at Canje is almost too pretty to eat … almost! Image: Canje

Plantain Chips from Canje

This starter of plantain chips and dips is well-nigh on mandatory. Image: Canje

Texas melons from Canje

Cool melons and mint play nicely with the bite of small peppers in the Texas melon plate. Image: Canje

For “Suppa,” the menu features the ubiquitous jerk chicken, served with charred tomatoes as well as wild boar pepper pot spiced with cassareep, a traditional Guyanese sauce made from cassava root. Pepper pot is traditionally a Christmas holiday dish in Guyana, but Chef Bristol-Joseph intends to offer this braised meat stew flavored with baking spices all year round.

Canje features some nice fusion side dishes to accompany your main plate with items like beans and rice made with Carolina Gold rice and pigeon peas or grilled okra with shrimp XO sauce.

Much of Bristol-Joseph’s reputation as a chef has come from his performance with pastry, so desserts are a specialty of his. Make sure to save room for a slab of black cake, another special occasion dish traditionally served around the holidays or at weddings. The rum-soaked cake is topped with cream cheese frosting and a sheep’s milk Tomme cheese. Other Caribbean staple desserts worth consideration include a tres leches cake and a passionfruit flan. Anything you choose will be a fine ending to an exotic meal.

Jerk chicken from Canje, a new Southern restaurant

Jerk chicken is deeply flavorful and savory with hints of baking spices. Image: Canje

Garlic Carolina rice and pigeon peas from Canje

A dish as humble as beans and rice is elevated in the talented hands of Chef Bristol-Joseph. Image: Canje

Carne Mare

300 12th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37203 • (615) 379-9000
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Nashville is blessed with a plethora of both high-end steakhouses and Italian restaurants, but with the opening of Carne Mare, acclaimed chef Andrew Carmellini has brought a combination of both to town. Located on the ground floor of the tony new W Hotel in the heart of the Gulch, Carne Mare is a dead sexy version of the sort of steakhouse you’d expect to find in an Italian metropolis.

Carmellini operates more than a dozen restaurants across the country, and another version of Carne Mare is already open in New York, even though the Nashville outpost was planned first. As soon as you grab the ornate bull horn door handles at the entrance, you are transported into a wonderful world of meat and seafood.

The interior has a clubby vibe, with lots of dark wood and leather accents. The welcoming bar just inside the front door has quickly become a popular gathering space for those who work and live in the Gulch to enjoy elegant cocktails, bubbles, and wine from the overwhelmingly Italian-dominated wine list.

A fun aspect of the Carne Mare experience is that it offers plenty of choices of seating. Just looking for a few drinks and some appetizers? Grab one of the high-top tables in the bar area. Want to watch the craziness of the Gulch from a safe distance? Ask for outdoor seating on one of the two patios. Trying to be seen as part of the scene? Large booths offer sweeping views of the entire dining room. For those who are interested in what’s going on in the kitchen, the prime seats are right next to the window that showcases the open kitchen and its wood-fired grill that Carmellini and his team use to great advantage.

Interior of Carne Mare, a new Southern restaurant

The clubby bar at Carne Mare welcomes all guests. Image: MJ McGeeney

Bill horns on door at Carne Mare, a new Southern restaurant

Sometimes, you just gotta grab the door by the horns! Image: MJ McGeeney

Bar at Carne Mare

A central service station features dramatic wine decanters that are part of the show at Carne Mare. Image: MJ McGeeney

RELATED: Your Complete Guide to the Gulch

Even though Carne Mare is extremely serious about the cuisine, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a little sense of humor in the kitchen. A popular appetizer of mozzarella sticks is nothing like those you’d find in the freezer case of your local supermarket because these come topped with a decadent helping of caviar. The “mare” section of the appetizer menu is dominated by selections of oysters from around the country and an outstanding shrimp cocktail served with Crab Louie. Other seafood shareables include an expertly-sliced carpaccio of Spanish octopus and spicy crab lettuce cups served with an Italian version of the condiment-of-the-moment, chili crisp.

Even the salads are a show at Carne Mare, with the highlight being a farmer’s salad created and served tableside. A traditional Sicilian Caesar is another excellent choice to make sure you get your vegetables in before launching into the “carne” side of the menu.

Mozzarella sticks from Carne Mare, a new Southern restaurant

Mozzarella sticks and caviar are the ultimate high-end/lowbrow treat. Image: Nicole Franzen

Of course you came for the meat, and Carne Mare does not disappoint. Sourcing the best dry-aged beef available, the kitchen prepares steaks in many different ways. The wood-fired grill adds a touch of smoke to individual portions of filet, strip loin, and ribeye, and the gargantuan tomahawk ribeye is big enough to share. Definitely intended to be split between a couple is the show-stopping 45 oz. 45-day aged Porterhouse served in the style of a traditional Tuscan Bistecca Fiorentino.

Accompany any of the steaks with sides for the table like heirloom polenta or mushroom marsala with porcini crema. For something truly unique, take a look at the roast prime rib, flavored with porchetta spices and slow-roasted for 12 hours before slicing straight to your plate. This time-intensive dish often sells out, so make an early reservation to assure you’ll get some because it’s not like they can just whip up another one after the last slice is served.

Steak and sides from Carne Mare

Many meats and vegetables benefit from the kiss of the grill at Carne Mare. Image: Nicole Franzen

Prime rib from Carne Mare, a new Southern restaurant

A slab of prime rib carved for your plate is exactly the decadent treat you deserve. Image: Nicole Franzen

Seafood lovers are also in luck with dishes ranging from red snapper encrusted in salt and cooked in lemon leaves to roasted swordfish or a spicy Lobster in Purgatorio. While the menu is certainly dominated by steaks and fish, there is a nice vegetarian option of smoke-roasted beet steak served with goat butter.

For something sweet to top off your evening, choose from a selection of gelato or sorbet or go for something more artistic with an intricate 17-layer chocolate cake. The real power move is to finish up with a celebratory baked spumoni for two, set ablaze tableside for dramatic effect. Spumoni doesn’t travel well, so you’ll just have to power through to finish every morsel of this spectacular dessert before it melts!

Octopus Carpaccio from Carne Mare

Look at the beautiful knifework on the octopus carpaccio! Image: Nicole Franzen

Chocolate cake from Carne Mare, a new Southern restaurant

Seventeen layers, because 16 wouldn’t be quite enough and 18 would be excessive. Image: Nicole Franzen

Baked Spumonior from Carne Mare

Finish your meal with a flambeed flourish from the baked spumoni. Image: Briana Balducci

For more Southern restaurant destinations, make sure to follow us on Instagram!

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November 2021

Although both of this month’s new restaurants feature chefs that are Southern at their cores, each exhibits fun international influences drawn from the experiences of the brilliant minds behind the menus. If you’re not ready to board a plane to Spain or Japan quite yet, a trip to Memphis or Savannah might be a more palatable way to scratch that itch of culinary curiosity.

Worth the Drive: 2 New Restaurants in the South

Pantà Memphis

2146 Monroe Ave, Memphis, TN 38104 • (901) 417-7491
Hours: Thursday through Saturday, 6 p.m. to midnight; Sunday “Siesta,” 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Louisiana-born chef Kelly English has been building a bit of a restaurant empire for most of the past two decades, dipping his spoon into markets across the South including New Orleans, Oxford, Biloxi, and St. Louis. Since 2008, most of his focus has been on Memphis, where he opened the beloved French-Creole Restaurant Iris followed by a more casual spot next door called The Second Line. In 2019, his restaurant group purchased Memphis institution Fino’s Italian Deli, rescuing it from closure.

Throughout his career, the talented young chef has succeeded by looking for the next trend and by making decisions based on his current interests, the well-being of his employees, and the desires of his guests.

To that end, he realized during the pandemic that operating Restaurant Iris in its current Midtown location was untenable for the amount of labor he needed in the kitchen, for service, and to valet park cars. “We were operating on the razor’s edge,” he explains. “I didn’t want to be in that position.”

Chef Kelly English

Chef Kelly English of Pantà has been a Memphis dining mainstay for more than a decade. Image: Pantà Memphis

He saw the opportunity to put a new restaurant in a retail development in East Memphis called Laurelwood and decided that moving Iris there made more sense than developing a new concept. At the same time, to keep himself and his staff interested during the days when carryout became the norm, he turned the former Restaurant Iris into the home of a three-month pop-up restaurant featuring Catalonian cuisine.

“I spent six months living in Barcelona when I was younger,” Kelly recalls. “That place was where I realized that wine and food was what I wanted to do for a living.” Kelly struggled with whether his guests were seeking out something familiar during the days of lockdown or if they wanted something new and exciting. “That pop-up helped put food on the table for our staff, and it was something we were super-jazzed about, serving simply prepared food made with simple ingredients, true to the Catalan style. I love the way they live.”

RELATED: 5 Beloved Intimate Restaurants in Memphis

The result is his brand new restaurant, Pantà, named for the Spanish word for “swamp” in a nod to Kelly’s Louisiana roots and for the large painting behind the bar of a marsh that still dominates the restaurant’s decor.  Pantà opened to great buzz in late October, and guests are loving Kelly’s take on traditional Spanish cuisine. He jokes, “I reserve the right to ‘Memphis’ the hell out of anything we want!” This is evidenced by dishes like his version of the traditional Bomba Barceloneta snack, a fritter filled with potato and minced meat, traditionally spicy ground beef. In Pantà’s iteration, the beef is substituted with barbecue pork from Payne’s, a Memphis fixture. The kitchen drizzles the bombas with two sauces, brave sauce and charred green onion aioli to add some extra zing to the dish.

Decor in Pantà Memphis, a new Southern restaurant

There’s something to interest the eye on every wall at Pantà. Image: Pantà Memphis

Other early winners on the menu include Secreto a la Plantxa, a charred herb-crusted pork shoulder dish served with salty crushed olives and chiles. Kelly is also proud of his Entrepá de Anec a les Landes, a baguette sandwich made with slow-roasted duck under a moorish chermoula slaw.

The atmosphere is festive at Pantà, in no small part thanks to the fact that Kelly expanded the bar from two seats to a dozen. Dine at the bar or in one of the two dining rooms, especially what Kelly calls “The Dragon Room,” a space decorated in a riot of color, blues, pinks, reds, yellows and oranges that the chef shares was inspired by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi’s legendary Park Güell in Barcelona.

The restaurant is open for dinner Thursday through Saturday, and instead of a traditional earlier Sunday brunch, Pantà offers a “Sunday Siesta” from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. Instead of chasing the after-church crowd, Kelly developed this schedule for later risers and also for other restaurant workers. He explains, “We want this to be a place that industry people can come to enjoy themselves. This model takes care of our people and also gives our peers some respite as well.”

Peix Cru from Pantà Memphis, a new Southern restaurant

Pantà’s version of a crudo, called Peix Cru, is served in lovely custom dishware. Image: Pantà Memphis

Cocktail from Pantà Memphis, a new Southern restaurant

The colorful and playful cocktails at Pantà fit in nicely with the vibrant decor, and they’re delicious! Image: Pantà Memphis

Pantà Memphis dessert

With a menu of small plates, it’s easy to possibly skip one to save room for dessert. Image: Pantà Memphis

In the traditional Spanish style, meals at Pantà are usually made up by ordering several smaller plates for sharing along with drinks or wine from the Spanish-heavy list. But is it a tapas bar? “I don’t care what you call it,” jokes Kelly. “The most expensive dish is $15, so you can order 6-7 dishes to share as a group or a couple to create your own meal. Are we a bar or a restaurant? I don’t know yet. 2020 has chilled me out, and I just don’t care. All I want to do is make sure my staff is working and our guests are having a great time.”

What a great sentiment from a thoughtful chef.

Fleeting

201 Port St., Savannah, GA 31401 • (912) 521-6150
Hours: Monday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

In Savannah, one peripatetic Southern chef is introducing his approach toward seasonal cuisine with international influences at Fleeting, the flagship restaurant of the new Thompson Hotel in the Eastern Wharf Project of the Hostess City of the South. Chef Rob Newton grew up in the Ozark region of Arkansas and has enjoyed successful stints in kitchens ranging from New York to Nashville. At each stop, Rob has created menus that showcase Southern ingredients prepared with global techniques, particularly fun little Asian twists, which makes any dish featuring rice, the cross-section of Arkansas and Japanese culture, real standouts.

Fleeting entrance

Walk through this opening from the Thompson‘s lobby to a whole new world at Fleeting. Image: Emily Dorio

Rob spent years working on his cookbook, Seeking the South, where he shares his culinary philosophy, and many of these tenets show up on the plates at Fleeting. With past experience working at Gray & Dudley at the 21C Museum Hotel in downtown Nashville, he strives to overcome the stigma of the typical hotel restaurant at Fleeting.

Sure, he has had to create menus for all three meals to satisfy the dining needs of hotel guests, but his breakfast goes far beyond “eggs served your way” and a smoothie or two. Instead, his versions of breakfast classics benefit from a thoughtful attitude toward novel details. The French toast features a salted sorghum butter, and the featured egg dish is a frittata made with wild mushrooms, local arugula, and pickled peppers.

At lunch, his global flavors really start to shine in dishes like the traditional Lowcountry staple Country Captain appearing in a spring roll form with coconut and roasted rice. Shrimp toast comes with benne seeds and soy sauce from Kentucky, and a delectable steak sandwich shows up griddled with onions and cheese and a crunchy addition of pickled giardiniera inspired by Italy.

Fleeting frittata

Try the frittata for a fun international take on your regular breakfast egg dish. Image: Emily Dorio

Country Captain from Fleeting, a new Southern restaurant

Filipino eggrolls, called lumpia, are a whimsical take on the Lowcountry classic of Country Captain. Image: Emily Dorio

Cocktails from Fleeting, a new Southern restaurant

Artfully crafted cocktails at Fleeting are as delicious as they are beautiful. Image: Emily Dorio

RELATED: 9 Tasty Pie Companies That Ship Nationwide

At dinner, hotel guests and curious locals enjoy opening salvos of pan-fried biscuit buns topped with duck confit and red-eye chile oil as well as oysters grilled over a live wood fire and accented with chartreuse-lemongrass butter and country ham breadcrumbs. A menu section of grains and vegetables features local products whenever possible and makes for fine side dishes to the selection of entrees.

Composed main plates depend on seasonal local ingredients like a rotating fish dish that is dependent on whatever the freshest offerings the fishmonger brings through the kitchen door. That fish is prepared with fregola, garlic, country ham, and Calabrian cured peppers to contribute heat, salt, and spice to the dish. A roast chicken comes with collards straight out of the Southern supper canon, and a thick pork chop is served over earthy hominy and an ingredient you might not have heard of yet, but you should: the sweet Jimmy Nardello pepper.

Roast chicken from Fleeting

This roast chicken with brown butter jus and collards is a deeply flavorful treat. Image: Emily Dorio

Desserts showcase Rob’s international bent in dishes like a Vietnamese coffee cake and an orange creamsicle mousse accented with the surprising addition of basil seeds. His version of rice pudding features the local cult favorite of Carolina Gold puffed rice with coconut caramel, plums, and grains of paradise to create a really novel ending to your international journey through the menu.

Rice pudding from Fleeting, a new Southern restaurant

A dessert of Carolina Gold rice pudding feels local and exotic at the same time. Image: Emily Dorio

Since opening in mid-September, Fleeting has already become a popular gathering spot for locals, whether for just a drink from the menu of seasonal cocktails or from the robust wine list, or an entire meal to celebrate a special occasion. As soon as guests step through the door from the lobby into the sleek attractive dining room, they feel like they have been whisked away to someplace somehow familiar and exotically different at the same time.

See more of our favorite restaurants across the South HERE!

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October 2021

As people become more comfortable with traveling and the approaching holidays may mean spending a little more time away from home, it’s appropriate to check out the latest hotel restaurants opening around the region. In addition to two impressive options to eat where you sleep, we’ve also discovered an opulent new Indian spot in the culinary hotspot of Asheville, North Carolina.

Worth the Drive: 3 New Restaurants in the South

Commons Club

550 Baronne St., New Orleans, LA 70113 • (504) 381-3534
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

After a brief hiccup where Hurricane Ida knocked out power to much of New Orleans soon after Commons Club opened in the new Virgin Hotel in the Warehouse District, the hip new dining spot is now up and running. Helming the kitchen is talented chef Alex Harrell, a Big Easy veteran with experience in some of the city’s best kitchens, including Ralphs on the Park, Table One, Sylvain, and as Executive Chef at Elysian Bar, where the restaurant earned a “Best New Restaurant” nomination by the James Beard Foundation.

Harrell’s experience working in hotel restaurants is a real plus because cooking in a hotel property is a very different animal from a standalone restaurant. Commons Club is the flagship restaurant of the new Virgin property, joining similar versions at other popular destinations like Las Vegas, Nashville, Chicago, and Dallas.

Chef Alex Harrell at Commons Club, a new Southern restaurant in New Orleans

Chef Alex Harrell hard at work in the Commons Club‘s kitchen. Image: Virgin Hotels

Very visible in the hotels’ lobbies, Commons Clubs are divided into three areas, The Kitchen at Commons Club, The Bar at Commons Club, and The Shag Room. All three serve as gathering places for guests and locals with the restaurants focusing on updated takes on contemporary classic American cuisine, the bar offering small bites and live entertainment along with creative cocktails, and The Shag Room providing a more intimate space for working during the day and playing at night.

Bar at Commons Club in New Orleans, LA

The inviting vibe of Commons Club flows from the lobby to the bar to the restaurant. Image: Virgin Hotels

Kitchen seating at Commons Club, a new Southern restaurant in New Orleans, LA

Intentionally mismatched furniture adds a bit of whimsy to the Commons Club’s decor. Image: Virgin Hotels

Chef Harrell oversees a tight menu of starters and entrees, because, in a restaurant city like New Orleans, diners have a multitude of other options, so hotel restaurants have to execute perfectly to keep their guests at home for a meal. In addition to a fun list of cocktails that feature new spins on old classics plus a menu of interesting and affordable wines, Commons Club offers just a few starters and several larger dishes. With an abbreviated menu as they continue to bounce back from Ida, the kitchen has to hit every mark to impress, and Chef Harrell is the one to lead that effort.

Appetizers skew Southern with a simple salad of Little Gem lettuces dressed with a lemony yogurt dressing and an internationally inspired grilled okra dish topped with harissa and a peanut-sesame crumble. Okra-phobes needn’t worry, because the smoke of the grill and crunch of the crumble offsets any of the sliminess that badly cooked okra may have vexed you with in the past.

Roasted mushroom fritters make for a good shareable dish, and Harrell embraces his Louisiana locale with a chilled corn and buttermilk soup that features local blue crab, pickled watermelon, and roasted shiitakes.

Commons Club Grilled Okra with Harissa

This grilled okra dish will win over a lot of previous okra-phobes. Image: Virgin Hotels

Chicken confit from Commons Club, a new Southern restaurant in New Orleans, LA

Chicken confit over pasta and peas is like a taste of fall in a bowl. Image: Virgin Hotels

Dragon Smoke from Commons Club in New Orleans, LA

The wonderfully complex Dargon’s Smoke cocktail packs a punch into half a glass. Image: Virgin Hotels

Local seafood also makes an appearance in Commons Club’s pasta dish, a plate of pappardelle topped with Gulf shrimp and vegetables. A luxurious dish of confit chicken legs slowly stews in fat to create an unctuous plate of poultry served with ricotta gnocchi and a ragout of field peas and squash. If you’re craving steak, Harrell serves a sirloin steak with a spicy salsa verde with crispy frites and a roasted garlic aioli dipping sauce.

Remember what we said about hotel restaurants? One absolute must for any such establishment is a classic hotel burger that’s a real crowd-pleaser. The Commons Club certainly doesn’t disappoint with a loosely ground wagyu patty, smashed on the grill to amplify the lovely Maillard reaction that releases the meat’s umami. Served on a potato bun with smoked gouda, pickles, house-made mustard, bacon fat aioli, and a side of fries, it’s exactly the fuel you need before a night out on the town or to rescue you if you’re turning in early after burning out on Bourbon Street. Pace yourself, people!

RELATED: 5 Southern Leaf-Peeping Destinations: Where to Find Colors This Fall

Andaaz

28 Hendersonville Rd., Asheville, NC 28803 • (828) 552-3200
Hours: Buffet — Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Weekend Buffet — Saturday and Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Dinner — à la carte — Monday through Sunday, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Asheville boasts an extraordinarily diverse culinary scene, with restaurants ranging from down-home to upscale featuring cuisines such as farm-to-table, Carolina-style barbecue, and Appalachian to a wide variety of international influences. One small hole in the restaurant offering has been filled with the recent opening of Andaaz, an Indian fine dining establishment in Biltmore Village that focuses on the cuisine of the Punjab region.

Opened by local entrepreneur Al Singh, Andaaz offers the expected buffet service, but not like you’d find in a typical shopping mall Indian restaurant. Singh reached out to New York chef Bobby Chhikara to help develop the concept and menu, and together they have created a lovely restaurant offering elevated versions of Punjabi classics.

The restaurant is dressed in bright jewel tones and soft fabrics, creating a lush environment for dining. The buffet is laid out upon a long counter in attractive chafing dishes, a far cry from the usual steam table where you have to duck under the sneeze guard to discern what you are ladling onto your plate. The buffet features an array of vegetable, chicken, and lamb curries plus rice and vegetables on the side. Delicate breads are cooked in a tandoori oven, and dumpling desserts round out the offerings — all a bargain at less than $20 for lunch.

Andaaz interior

Decorated with bright jewel tones and sleek lines, Andaaz presents a very modern vibe. Image: Andaaz

Buffet at Andaaz, a new Southern restaurant in Asheville, NC

The buffet at Andaaz is attractive and delicious. Image: Andaaz

A full bar is a welcoming spot for a before-dinner cocktail with friends to prepare for the elegant white tablecloth meal that awaits you. The bar also serves a tight selection of local craft brews and affordable wine options.

Many of the best appetizers and entrees benefit from time in the clay tandoor ovens, including substantial starters like a dish of Mysore lamb chops marinated in citrus and ginger that could easily serve as a main dish. The exotic mango shrimp tandoori comes with a tangy mango yogurt and mint chutney. For a unique take on traditional chicken wings, order some “Drums of Heaven,” three crispy fried chicken legs tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce.

Drums of Heaven from Andaaz in Asheville, NC

Crispy sweet/spicy Drums of Heaven fly above most typical sports bar wings. Image: Andaaz

Vegetarians have plenty of appetizer options at Andaaz, including fried potato and pea samosas, papdi chaat crackers topped with chickpeas, or pakora, which are spicy fritters stuffed with onions and spinach.

An entire section of the à la carte menu is dedicated to more tandoori dishes, so those clay ovens must be working overtime in the kitchen. In addition to baked seafood and chicken dishes and the ubiquitous creamy chicken tikka, take a chance on something less familiar with the gilafi seekh kebab, skewers of minced lamb sausage served on a bed of peppers and onions.

Singh is a big fan of the restaurant’s signature chicken Andaaz, a curry dish served with a rich tomato and yogurt gravy, and intrepid diners can stretch their comfort zone with a house special goat curry cooked Punjabi-style. Make sure to save room for one of the kitchen’s sweet desserts to finish up your meal. Two different dumpling items come stuffed with either cottage cheese and condensed milk or with an Indian version of cheesecake perfumed with a delicate warm honey-rose syrup.

In a city already known for its wide array of dining destinations, Andaaz offers something exotic and new.

Tagine from Andaaz, a new Southern restaurant in Asheville, NC

Beautiful plating and bold flavors are hallmarks of the cuisine at Andaaz. Image: Andaaz

Sausage from Andaaz in Asheville, NC

Squeeze a lemon over these minced lamb sausage kebabs to wake up the exotic spices even more. Image: Andaaz

RELATED: 48 Hours In Asheville, North Carolina

Ella’s on 2nd

210 Molloy Street, Nashville, TN 37201 • (629) 248-9515
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Another new hotel restaurant has opened in Nashville: Ella’s on 2nd in the luxury Hyatt Centric property in SoBro. Catering to hotel guests, tourists, locals, and downtown workers, Ella’s is open for all three meals, seven days a week. Named for co-owner Michael Hayes’s grandmother, Ella’s offers a menu of elevated Southern cuisine using fresh ingredients, including a selection of innovative vegetarian dishes to offset some of the traditional guilt that accompanies down-home classics. Executive Chef Nicholas Hertel works with local producers to source fresh, seasonal ingredients for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Floor-to-ceiling windows illuminate an airy dining room with a view of the open kitchen. The homey atmosphere also offers a nice juxtaposition to the modern gestalt of the Hyatt Centric. The bar at Ella’s is open whenever the restaurant is serving, offering beer, wine, and cocktails plus an abbreviated food menu.

Cocktails from Ella's on 2nd, a new Southern restaurant in Nashville, TN

A boozy brunch at Ella’s on 2nd is exactly the treat you deserve after a long week. Image: Kelly LaMattia

For breakfast, Ella’s tries hard to be healthy with mushroom gravy substituted for sausage on a biscuit dish as well as skinny options like yogurt parfaits, steel-cut oats, and avocado toast. But not all guests are watching their waistlines on vacation, and good for them! They can opt for the gooey Goo Goo French toast with chocolate and whipped cream or a Southern benedict with country ham, hollandaise, and fried potatoes. We’ll not judge.

Lunchtime brings a selection of seasonal salads, sandwiches, and main dishes. Their burger comes with the option of a meatless Impossible patty or a beefy slab from local Bear Creek Farm. A spicy shrimp and grits is another fan favorite at midday.

Shrimp & grits from Ella's on 2nd in Nashville, TN

Shrimp and grits are a Southern staple, and Ella’s version of the dish is first-rate. Image: Kelly LaMattia

For dinner, start out with a few selections from their shareable options … perhaps some fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese or a creamy collard dip with country ham. Main dishes are also split almost evenly between vegetarian and meat plates, with the Nashville hot cauliflower steak offering a particularly intriguing option from the usual fried chicken. A cooling yogurt sauce accompanies the dish as a welcome relief from the heat. For carnivores, an aged ribeye from Bear Creek or the Smothered Berwood Farms Berkshire pork chop with braised collard greens are clear favorites. Shareable sides from the table include fried Yukon potatoes, roasted carrots, or grilled broccolini accented with chili oil.

With a menu of Southern classics with one-third less guilt if you opt for the vegetarian options, it shouldn’t take long for Ella’s to become a favorite among Nashville locals and visitors.

Nashville cauliflower from Ella's on 2nd, a new Southern restaurant in Nashville, TN

Ella’s hot fried cauliflower steak offers a delightful contrast of textures between the crunchy crust and creamy yogurt sauce plus seasonal vegetables. Image: Kelly LaMattia

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September 2021

Now that Labor Day has passed, we can put some of our labors behind, too, and concentrate on some fun. We’ve got some new restaurant and bar openings that will definitely put a smile on your face, from an island-inspired tropical paradise outside of Charleston to a restaurant and bar project courtesy of a Knoxville hospitality power couple. Get ready to gas up the car and point it toward some good times!

Worth the Drive: 3 New Restaurants in the South

The Longboard

2213-B, Middle St, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482 • (843) 868-8161
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., closed Monday and Tuesday

One of the best parts about visiting or living in Charleston is the fact that the historic city is surrounded by a series of coastal barrier islands, each with its own unique personality. Sullivan’s Island is about 10 miles from Charleston, but it feels like a world away, with its long stretches of quiet beaches, abundant wildlife, and a small population of laidback residents. The denizens of the island are gifted with some really great dining opportunities, and the latest addition to the culinary scene leans into the island vibe, specifically the idylls of Caribbean life.

The original location of The Longboard is on St. John’s in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the owners have done a fantastic job exporting the food, drinks, and fun from the tropics to the states. Named after the type of boards that serious surfers use to tackle big waves, a longboard hangs above the bar as a centerpiece of the tropical decor that Ballast Hospitality spent two years to create in the shell of a former pizza joint. Ballast also hired Chef Will Fincher from another Sullivan’s Island restaurant to create the menu of seafood-centric dishes that combine the freshest ingredients from the sea prepared with a combination of tropical and Lowcountry influences. The result is a unique dining experience unlike anything else in the region.

RELATED: The Fascinating Story Behind Coastal Mississippi’s French Hermit Oyster Co.

Exterior of The Longboard, a new Southern restaurant in Sullivan's Island, SC

The large shutters over the front of The Longboard keep the entrance cool while letting in some light and breeze. Image: The Longboard

Locals pull up in tricked-out golf carts, while tourists are willing to pay top dollar for a rideshare from Charleston to enjoy a meal at The Longboard (and it’s totally worth the fare). Open hurricane shutters allow fresh salt air into the front of the restaurant so that the aromas of the beach follow you into The Longboard, where the beachy design scheme instantly transports you to the islands.

Enjoy a cocktail from the bar at the banquette under those shutters, decorated in tropical greens and jungle foliage designs. The indoor/outdoor dining room is accented by white wooden beams and shiplap walls that look like they have been bleached by the sun, creating a lovely beach bungalow vibe.

Banquette at The Longboard

A seat at the banquette feels like enjoying a cocktail on the deck of a yacht in the Caribbean. Image: The Longboard

The bar program focuses on tropical treats, including the infamous Painkiller, a frozen rum cocktail born in the Virgin Islands and spread to U.S. bars and restaurants where it has been responsible for some irresponsible decisions over the years. Better limit yourself to one of those — two tops! Other custom cocktails also focus on recreating the Caribbean experience through the use of tropical ingredients like grilled pineapple, coconut, passionfruit, and tiki standbys like orgeat.

Cognizant of the fact that some guests may have a half-hour drive back to Chucktown, the bar menu thoughtfully offers a variety of non-alcoholic drinks that are just as creative as their boozy counterparts. In fact, a delicious creation of watermelon, cucumber-basil lemonade, and soda is actually called the “I’m Driving.” The tight wine list features selections by the glass or the bottle, and the beer list focuses on some of Charleston’s excellent local craft breweries.

Bar at The Longboard, a new Southern restaurant

Belly up to the long bar under the longboard! Image: The Longboard

Cocktail from The Longboard

The Longboard’s tropical cocktails feature island rums that pack a punch. Image: The Longboard

The raw bar is certainly a highlight of The Longboard. Oyster Hour runs daily from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. with cocktail and oyster specials on both raw and grilled varieties. Dressed oysters are served on ice in a coconut shell bowl topped with seasonal ingredients, and a selection of crudos and ceviches feature the freshest available fish sliced thin and dressed with internationally-inspired accoutrements like watermelon agua chile or aji amarillo. The “Chill & Grill” shrimp are actually grilled, chilled, and then served with yuzu aioli and house cocktail sauce.

Larger shareable plates keep the convivial island bar vibe going with options like smoked fish spread with yucca chips, fish croquettes, mussel toast, and a sweet and crunchy pork belly. A hanger steak is about the only land-based dish on the menu if you absolutely insist on some beef, but we suggest staying in the sea with an order of octopus or a whole fish presentation that changes based on what the chef finds at the market. After all, you came for a trip to the islands, so why order a steak? Head to The Longboard for a tropical vacation without having to rummage in your desk drawer for that dusty passport!

Dressed oyster from The Longboard, a new Southern restaurant

This dressed oyster is almost too pretty to eat. (Almost!) Image: The Longboard

Fish spread from The Longboard

Small plates like fish spread, seafood fritters, and crudo are great for sharing over a drink or two at The Longboard. Image: The Longboard

Osteria Stella & Brother Wolf

108 W Jackson Ave., Ste. 2, Knoxville, TN 37902 • (865) 247-4729
Osteria Stella hours: Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5 pm to 11 p.m., Sunday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., closed Monday and Tuesday
Brother Wolf hours: Monday through Sunday, 4 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Knoxville doesn’t get enough attention as a dining destination, but the city actually has the third-largest per capita collection of restaurants in the country. Two local hospitality veterans have recently added to the collection of great culinary options with the opening of the city’s first authentic northern Italian restaurant and its first aperitivo bar dedicated to spirits and cocktails from Italy. The power couple behind Brother Wolf and Osteria Stella is Aaron Thompson and Jessica “Rabbit” King, hometown heroes who are seeking to elevate Knoxville to both the local and state stage. Both have extensive experience with wine, spirits, and operations both in the front and the back of the house. To ensure they got the food and drink offering just right, Aaron and Jessica consulted with Chef Consultant Amalia Brusati, a Milan native, and Chef de Cuisine Salvador Sanchez.

The two establishments share an address, divided by a curtain, and any visit should include at least some time at both halves of the business. Nothing gets the juices flowing before a meal like the delicious herbal and bitter characteristics of a fine Italian amaro, which is the reason they’re called “aperitivos.” Italians enjoy starting off an evening with small bites accompanied by low-alcohol cocktails, and that’s exactly the focus of Brother Wolf.

Snacks range from cheese plates, arancini rice balls, salumi, salty nuts, and olives that pair wonderfully with the bar’s list of 24 cocktails and spritzes. For a slightly stronger drink, choose from one of their Negroni variations that range from classic to experimental. Aaron has created a special wine-by-the-glass program of more than 30 options ranging from light and fruity to leathery brunellos and barolos.

Aaron Thompson and Jessica “Rabbit” King, founders of Brother Wolf and Osteria Stella

Only Baby Stella is allowed on the table at her parents’ restaurant. Image: Submitted

Interior of Brother Wolf, a new Southern restaurant

Eclectic artwork decorates the curtained area between Brother Wolf and Osteria Stella. Image: Brother Wolf

Negroni cocktail from Brother Wolf

You can’t beat the simplicity of a classic Negroni: equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth is the perfect ratio. Image: Brother Wolf

The decor at Brother Wolf is striking, bright, and lively with exposed brick walls accented by gold and brass fixtures. A large mural depicts the bar’s namesake, the mother wolf who nursed Rome’s founders, twin brothers Romulus and Remus. The bar itself is made from polished wood and intricate Italian tile work, and comfy leather and cane woven chairs make it a great place to while away an hour or two before sitting down for a meal on the other side of the curtain.

Bar at Brother Wolf, a new Southern restaurant

A rainbow of regional Italian amari shines behind the bar at Brother Wolf. Image: Brother Wolf

Interior of Brother Wolf, a new Southern restaurant

Since Brother Wolf shares space with Osteria Stella, the sign on the wall makes sure you know where you are. Image: Brother Wolf

Osteria Stella is named after Aaron and Jessica’s daughter who turned 1 year old the night the restaurant opened. Stella should be proud of her namesake because it is an excellent addition to the Knoxville dining scene. The dining room is as dramatic as the bar at Brother Wolf, but in a more dark and brooding way. Dark walls, luxe velvet booths, and antique chandeliers contribute a clubby vibe, and floor-to-ceiling curtains offer full privacy to three of the booths. Murals run the length of the restaurant offering the mantra “be courageous, be strong, be kind” written in Italian. If something seems oddly familiar about the host stand, notice that it used to be a church pulpit.

RELATED: 48 Hours in Knoxville, Tennessee

Interior of Osteria Stella, a new Southern restaurant

Osteria Stella exudes cool with its sleek decor. Image: Osteria Stella

Aaron’s experience as a sommelier is definitely in evidence with the restaurant’s 140-bottle premium wine list representing all 20 wine regions of Italy. Be sure to lean on the staff for advice on what to pair with the menu of straight-ahead Italian antipasti, insalate, pasta-based primi courses, and meat and seafood for the secondi main courses.

Starter highlights include fried gnocchi, octopus and potatoes, or an arugula salad with salty dried beef called bresaola. A creamy saffron risotto is made even more decadent by the addition of bone marrow butter and the spicy Bucatini all’Amatriciana is another excellent primi option reminiscent of a classic arrabbiata sauce.

Keeping in mind that Milan represents the North Star for this Northern Italian restaurant, the Cotoletta alla Milanese is an obvious choice for a main course, and there’s no shame in opting for the breaded veal chop with seasonal greens, but the Osso Bucco and Chicken Marsala are also classics worthy of your consideration.

Spaghetti Vongole e Bottarga from Osteria Stella

Shaved bottarga (cured mullet roe) over clams and pasta is a treat you won’t find at many restaurants. Image: Osteria Stella

Risotto alla Milanese from Osteria Stella, a new Southern restaurant

As if risotto isn’t rich enough, just add bone marrow butter! Image: Osteria Stella

Of course, you can’t forget the dolci section of the menu at the end of the meal. Choose from Italian stalwarts like tiramisu or panna cotta, or you can always end your meal with a bracing affogato al caffè, a lovely vanilla gelato with a shot of espresso. Another option would be to slide behind that curtain back to Brother Wolf for another sip of amaro, because those Italian spirits also aid with digestion. Plus, they stay open late at Brother Wolf, so your evening doesn’t have to end yet.

Crostata from Osteria Stella

Delicate china makes a great palette for their beautiful crostata, a shortbread and custard dessert topped with fresh fruit that changes seasonally. Image: Osteria Stella

Discover more great Southern restaurants by visiting our archives.

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August 2021

Let’s take an international food tour without leaving the South this month! From the globally inspired diner fare of BOCADO in Charlotte, NC, to the modern Brazilian cuisine of Meridian in Dallas, TX, the region is embracing food that revels in influences from around the world. Of course, there’s always room for another good seafood spot around Charleston, and The Kingstide is an excellent new venture from a restaurant group that has an established track record of success with many restaurant favorites across the area. Pack your passport and follow along!

Worth the Drive: 3 New Restaurants in the South

BOCADO Bar + Diner

2000 South Blvd., Ste. 530, Charlotte, NC 28203 • (704) 248-0647
Hours: All-day menu — Every day, 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Happy hour — Monday through Friday, 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Late night — Monday through Saturday, 10 p.m. to midnight; Weekend brunch starting at 10:30 a.m.

It’s tough to beat a good diner, especially if the kitchen makes a special effort to elevate the fare above typical greasy spoon cuisine. The new BOCADO Bar + Diner in Charlotte’s South End Atherton neighborhood offers up the eclectic variety of foods you’d expect from a proper diner including breakfast dishes like avocado toast, a darned fine burger that has won acclaim from national publications, and pasta dishes to soak up a little bit of the excellent cocktail, beer, and wine list. However, this third outpost of the Atlanta-based restaurant group exhibits a modern aesthetic and culinary approach to new Southern cuisine that belies the word “diner” in its name.

As soon as you walk through the door of the converted early 20th-century manufacturing building, it’s obvious that BOCADO pays close attention to the details, from the clubby leather furniture and twinking chandeliers to the heavy, flowing drapes that keep the din of diners down to a low roar. They describe their menu as an “all day” offering, which means they must sleep in late since it starts at 3:30 in the afternoon, but weekend brunch does kick off at 10:30 a.m. with an expanded menu for some morning fun. Late night and happy hour menus also feature a few special treats as well.

RELATED: 48 Hours in Charlotte: Your Two-Day Itinerary

Interior of Bocado Bar & Diner, a new Southern restaurant

Cozy banquettes and dark wood make for a clubby atmosphere at Charlotte’s BOCADO Bar + Diner. Image: BOCADO Bar + Diner

Chef Erik Lujan walks the fine line between healthy and slightly debaucherous fare with intriguing starters like a kale salad topped with buttermilk dressing and a classic summer watermelon salad made with tomatoes, Tomme cheese, mint, lime, and a little hint of heat from jalapeños. Classic deviled eggs are dressed up with pickled okra, shallots, and calabrese peppers for an updated take on that particular picnic staple, and even though the headquarters of BOCADO is in Georgia, their first Carolina location hints at the superiority of South Carolina peaches by roasting them and serving them with blue cheese, butter, vegetables, and bread.

Other excellent apps include fried oysters and creamy ham fritters made using Spanish serrano. Late-night visitors have access to some classic chilaquiles after they dim the lights for a more loungy vibe after 10 p.m., and they’re worth the wait!

Now, about that burger. The BOCADO double stack is a classic smashburger on a housemade bun, topped with gooey American cheese and bread-and-butter pickles. Pay the extra buck for a side of herbed fries for the full experience of one of the best restaurant burgers in the region. The kitchen also offers a slightly more elevated “Southern burger” with bibb lettuce and grilled onions for an upscale take on the classic.

Bocado Burger Stack

The iconic BOCADO Double Stack has been named a “Best Burger” winner by several regional and national publications. We agree! Image: BOCADO Bar + Diner

The diner classic of grilled cheese also gets the BOCADO upgrade thanks to the use of three kinds of cheese including Comté, dry Jack, and Fromage blanc, plus smoky bacon and an egg on top. It’s worth rolling up your sleeves to enjoy this treat. Larger main plates worth serious consideration include local trout over a cauliflower puree and a pan-seared chicken thigh served with grits and collard greens. As you’d expect at a diner, the eclectic menu has to have at least one great pasta dish, and BOCADO’s version of carbonara fits the bill nicely. House-made bucatini pasta arrives hot to the table in a shiny sauce of egg yolk and crispy pancetta lardons plus local mushrooms, aged Parm, and just enough black pepper to brighten up the silky egg sauce.

Most of the menu will run you less than $20 for a plate, but the one big splurge is a limited-availability bone-in aged ribeye that weighs in at a pound and a half. The delightfully funky and fatty cut is balanced by the acid provided by some salsa verde and lemon, along with peppery arugula and a shower of shaved Parmesan. It’s big enough to split but also special enough to hoard.

So don’t be fooled when BOCADO modestly refers to itself as a diner. While the food is certainly approachable and affordable, it’s definitely more fine dining than diner!

Red quinoa from Bocado, a new Southern restaurant

A delicate red quinoa salad is another delicious and healthy option on the BOCADO menu. Image: BOCADO Bar + Diner

Meridian

5650 Village Glen Drive, Dallas, TX 75206 • (469) 659-6382
Hours: Dinner — Tuesday through Sunday, 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Happy hour — Tuesday through Friday, 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

If your only idea of Brazilian food is the typical chain steak house with a salad bar big enough to be seen from space and a parade of gauchos wandering around the dining room with skewers of grilled meat to slice onto your plate, there’s a big surprise waiting for you in Dallas at Meridian. Speaking of big, even the term “Brazilian food” is as descriptively inaccurate as calling both San Diego fish tacos and Maine lobster rolls “American food.” Yes, they’re both from the same country, but from thousands of miles away, so there aren’t many similarities between them. Brazil is actually a larger landmass than the Lower 48 states of the U.S., so you would expect great variations in cooking styles across the country.

Meridian demonstrates many of the elements of modern Brazilian cuisine. Executive Chef Junior Borges draws influences from the melting pot of indigenous peoples, Europeans, and Africans that populated colonial Brazil and came together to create the country’s varied population of today. In modern times, Brazilian chefs also draw inspiration and flavors from European countries outside of Portugal, like Italy and France, as well as Asian and Middle Eastern influences.

“Americans are surprised to learn that Brazil has literally the largest Japanese population outside of Japan,” says Chef Borges, “and the greatest number of people of Italian descent outside of Italy.”

Meridian Executive Chef Junior Borges

Chef Junior Borges brings together flavors from all over Brazil to Meridian in Dallas. Image: Meridian

Chef Borges grew up in a small town north of Rio where he learned to cook using whatever food came through the door, often in the hands of his doctor father’s patients in the form of payment. His cooking is also influenced by the African/Caribbean inspirations of the cuisine of Bahia, the Brazilian state with the longest coastline, and thus a real emphasis on seafood.

Meridian opened late this spring in The Village, a premium residential development north of downtown. The design of the restaurant is intimate and airy at the same time, seating 80 patrons inside plus an additional 35 on an adjacent patio. Alfresco diners might even spy the kitchen staff harvesting from the nearby chef’s garden, seeking fresh ingredients for a dish.

The pavilion-like dining area surrounds a show kitchen, highlighted by a wood-fired hearth. Open fire is an important part of Brazilian cooking, and chef Borges takes advantage of the process to add kisses of smoke to the house-made hot sauce that perks up an appetizer of cheese fritters and country ham. Several large plates are cooked on the hearth including a whole grilled octopus served with green garlic and chile vinaigrette. If you still want a little (well, a big) taste of the churrasco experience, order the Snake River Farms dry-aged Wagyu bone-in ribeye hot of the grill for a decadent treat.

Borges demonstrates great restraint when the dish calls for it, like the minimalist kohlrabi “Caesar” made with fried-egg aioli, mint, aged pecorino, and herb bread crumbs. Moqueca, a Bahian classic seafood dish, features prawns in a charred plantain and coconut broth with rich red dende oil. Paired with a bottle from Meridian’s deep wine list or a caipirinha from the bar, that bowl of moqueca is a wonderful representation of the past, present, and future of Brazilian cuisine.

Interior of Meridian, a new Southern restaurant

Large windows let in plenty of light for diners and for the plants that add to the natural ambiance of Meridian. Image: Meridian

Meridian sausage

Sausage and farofa combine interesting textural contrasts and bright flavors. Image: Meridian

Shrimp from Meridian, a new Southern restaurant

Have you ever seen a more vibrantly hued dish? Moqueca is a classic Bahia seafood dish starring charred prawns. Image: Meridian

Kohlrabi “caesar” from Meridian

This shaved kohlrabi version of a Caesar salad demonstrates great subtlety and nuance. Image: Meridian

The Kingstide

32 River Landing Dr., Daniel Island, SC 29492 • (843) 216-3832
Hours: Monday, Wednesday & Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 11 p.m.; Sunday noon to 10 p.m.; Closed Tuesday

In a city as well known for fantastic seafood like Charleston, SC, opening another seafood restaurant might seem like a risky proposition. But The Kingstide is a new project from The Indigo Road Hospitality Group, a powerhouse collection of restaurants around Charleston and other Southeastern cities.

With experience creating steakhouses like Oak, sushi-centric restaurants such as O-ku, and Italian and Mexican spots like Indaco and Maya, Indigo Road has the team to tackle the project. Another odd circumstance around The Kingstide is that, despite the fact that it is located on Daniel Island, which is surrounded by the Cooper and Wando Rivers, this is actually the only waterfront restaurant on the entire 4,000-acre island. Management takes great advantage of that fact with lots of patio seating adjacent to the two-story restaurant, offering views of the Wando rolling by. Executive Chef Kevin Getzewich takes inspiration from his surroundings to create a seafood-centric menu of Lowcountry and open ocean cuisine, which depends on the freshest available ingredients delivered from the boat to the kitchen.

RELATED: 8 Iconic Southern Restaurants on Our Bucket List

Outdoor bar at The Kingstide, a new Southern restaurant

The aqua hues of Kingstide‘s interior hints at the menu’s focus on the sea. Image: Andrew Cebulka

A king’s tide is the name for an especially high tide, usually during the spring, so it only makes sense to start your own Kingstide experience as high as you can get with a cocktail at the rooftop bar. In addition to classic and frozen drinks, the bar also offers a nice selection of wines by the glass or by the bottle, plus a tight menu of craft beers. The bar is also a fine spot for some pre-dinner snacks from the special menu of small bites ranging from oysters Rockefeller and hushpuppies to pickled shrimp and lobster rolls.

Don’t fill up on snacks though, because the main event awaits you at your dining room table as you investigate Chef Getzewich’s almost exclusively seafood-based menu. (But yes, there is a quite-good steak frites dish on the menu for anyone who didn’t catch the drift of the name, or the fact that the restaurant is on an island.)

Pickled shrimp from The Kingstide

Pickled shrimp benefits from the zesty citrus and savory Vietnamese nước chấm sauce. Image: Andrew Cebulka

Fizz de Pomelo from The Kingstide, a new Southern restaurant

Kingstide is rightfully proud of its crafty cocktails. Image: Andrew Cebulka

Notable starters include fried calamari for the table, salmon rillettes, and a single-serving bowl of crab fried rice that could be shared, but which will probably be eaten by whoever was smart enough to order it. A soup course of a Lowcountry chowder showcases the smokiness of Nueske’s bacon, a surprising addition considering that it hails from Wisconsin, but that bacon sure does go well with the potatoes and peppers in the chowder.

Seafood towers are available in three sizes depending on the appetite of the table, but all three options include peel-and-eat shrimp, oysters, clams, and crab. If you want to mix and match in different quantities, you can always order from the raw bar section of the menu that also includes treats like lobster tails and Alaskan King crab.

Variety of dishes from The Kingstide

Be sure to make some room on your table at Kingstide because the plates can pile up. Image: Andrew Cebulka

For main dishes, it’s always wise to put yourself in the hands of the kitchen with the seasonal fish special. You know they’ll serve the freshest fish they can find, poached in nage sauce and accompanied by English peas, pine nuts, and whipped potatoes. Ahi lovers can enjoy an Asian-inspired seared tuna steak with bok choy, pickled shiitakes, and oyster vinaigrette, while a campfire trout is a more traditional American presentation with bacon and fingerling potatoes.

Many of the shareable sides benefit from an open fire, like the roasted carrots and the grilled broccoli rabe — and be sure to consider an order of the house-pickled vegetables to offer a little acid to cut through some of the fried food on the menu. Aww, who are we kidding? We know you’ll want an extra order of hushpuppies and crispy potatoes for the table. Go ahead and do that!

Here’s to new dining adventures!

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