With Southern cuisine continuing its rolling boil as one of the country's hottest cuisines, it's no surprise that a flurry of new restaurants are planning to fire up their grills in the region's culinary capitals. But there is also plenty of new action that doesn't necessarily revolve around collard greens and dining rooms decorated with reclaimed barnwood. Here's what we're looking forward to down here in Dixie, besides an 8th consecutive NCAA football championship, of course.
Nashville anxiously awaits the opening of The Kitchen at 404, the latest project from Matt Bolus, a Music City transplant who once served as Mike Lata's fish butcher at FIG in Charleston, and who has more recently earned a vaunted reputation as a very creative chef at Nashville restaurants Watermark and Flyte World Dining and Wine. His intimate project will seat about 40 patrons in a converted shipping container attached to a new boutique hotel being constructed next to Nashville's venerable bluegrass music destination, The Station Inn. Bolus promises “pure food, honestly grown, harvested and prepared, presented to our guests in hopes of inspiring relationships between people, food and farmers.” The Kitchen at 404 should be ready to showcase the bounty of the local fields some time in the October/November time frame.
In Memphis, Kelly English hopes to capitalize on the success of his French/Southern hybrid Restaurant Iris with the opening of the ultra-casual Second Line next door. English cut his teeth working in John Besh's kitchen and is planning a menu of po'boys and New Orleans classic dishes like oyster beggar's purse. True to the Big Easy vibe, the Second Line will also have a much larger bar than its neighboring fancier older brother. Look for les bon temps to rouler some time before Halloween.
Speaking of John Besh, he was recently awarded the anchor-restaurant location for a new W Hotel being developed in the old World Trade Center on the riverfront in New Orleans. If you've ever visited the French Quarter, you may remember the tall edifice that looks like the Spacely Sprockets Building. The city has debated whether to tear down or refurbish the empty WTC for years, but it will still be quite awhile before Besh can get into his new kitchen. In the meantime, Besh and his Domenica chef Alon Shaya are also eying a location for a new pizza restaurant somewhere in the Central Business District. We're also awaiting his collaboration with Aarón Sánchez on a Mexican restaurant slated to be called Johnny Sanchez Tacos and Tequila Bar.
Ramen has suddenly caught on in the South, with a hot new noodlery on the docket in Dallas. Tanoshii Ramen is slated to open sometime in September in the city’s Deep Ellum neighborhood. Run by husband and wife chef couple Joey and Chi Le, they are also planning a menu of Vietnamese and Japanese noodle and soup dishes, as well as banh xeo and pork belly buns. Charlotte's Baku aims to introduce North Carolinians to Japanese robata open-flame charcoal grilling, all of which will feature locally produced ingredients. This being the cradle of locavorism after all, a “farm to chopstick” philosophy isn't that surprising.
In Houston, they're sharpening their steak knives in anticipation of the October opening of Vallone's, “a modern classic steakhouse” featuring a “technique-driven approach to steak, fish, chops and house-made pastas." Namesake owner Tony Vallone already operates two of the most successful restaurants in Houston with Ciao Bello and Tony's, the latter recognized as one of the top-grossing restaurants in the country by Forbes. Vallone's will be located in the dynamic Gateway Memorial City neighborhood where Vallone grew up, which should provide for constant crowds to welcome him home.
Perhaps the noblest experiment is taking place in Atlanta, where diners await the opening of Staplehouse. Ryan and Jen Hidiger had operated as a successful supper club for a few years when they announced plans to open as a brick and mortar operation. Soon after committing to the leap, Ryan was diagnosed with stage IV gallbladder cancer, and their dreams seemed imperiled. Undaunted, the couple moved forward with their plans, and Ryan's sister Kara and her fiancé Ryan Smith decided to leave their respective jobs at other popular Atlanta restaurants, Abbatoir and Empire State South respectively, to join the venture.
Now repositioned as a non-profit, Staplehouse will contribute all profits after payroll and taxes to The Giving Kitchen Initiative, a charity that provides living expense assistance to members of the restaurant community affected by emergency situations. Plans are to open this new Southern kitchen in time for a New Year's toast to health and prosperity.
Remember, of course, that all of these dates are flexible, because the next restaurant to open up on schedule will be the first restaurant to open on schedule. But it's time to start stalking reservations on Open Table across the South.
Read The Hidden South columns on Food Republic: