The coming year will see breakout Southern chefs going both big and small with their sophomore ventures, new restaurants that reinforce the South’s emerging role as America’s great melting pot, and the renovation of a beloved landmark that has locals in a state of nervous anticipation. In other words, it’s another banner year for Southern dining.
Travis Milton—late of Richmond’s Comfort—will explore modern Appalachian cooking at two new spots. The first, Milton’s, opens February 12 in the tiny town of St. Paul, Virginia, with a menu he describes as “a modernist take on a roadside greasy-spoon kind of place.” Having grown up nearby, he’s keen to make this new-era meat-and-three “quirky and cool but accessible to the people here.” His fine-dining spot, Shovel and Pick, opens this fall in Bristol, with a menu “rooted in the heirloom foods of Appalachia.”
Nina Compton will follow her sensational Compere Lapin in New Orleans’ Warehouse Arts District with Bywater American Bistro, set in a space below her own riverfront loft. Look for the St. Lucia-born chef, who first arrived in the Crescent City as a “Top Chef” contestant, to offer an affordable, casual take on her broad-ranging cuisine. A menu focus on grain dishes befits the building’s former life as a rice mill. (Anticipated opening early 2018.)
In Austin, sushi master Tyson Cole of Uchi and brisket god Aaron Franklin of Franklin’s Barbecue will team up for Loro, a fast-casual restaurant with composed dishes of Asian-inspired smoked meats. “The food will be clean and bright and acidic, with lots of textures,” Cole says. “The more Aaron and I work together, the more we realize what we have in common. We’ve each spent ten years behind a counter; he smoking meat and me cutting fish.” (Anticipated opening in March.)
Jerry Slater of Atlanta’s late, lamented H. Harper Station will bring his brown-liquor-forward sensibility to the Expat, a bistro and cocktail lounge he’ll open with his wife, Krista, in Athens, Georgia’s emerging Five Points neighborhood. An early mockup of the cocktail menu shows modernized classics and many personal stories. (Anticipated opening in March.)
In Atlanta, all eyes are the Hotel Clermont, which years ago stopped renting out rooms by the month but still draws a diverse crowd nightly for the strong drink and experienced ecdysiasts of the Clermont Lounge. After a massive renovation, the hotel will reopen with a signature French brasserie, Tiny Lou’s. Named for a famous dancer from the 1950’s, the restaurant will be managed by Charleston-based Indigo Road Hospitality Group and helmed by local chef Jeb Aldrich. Look for Bramlett Farms trout amandine on the menu and business as usual in the lounge next door. “All they’ve done is change the bathroom doors,” Aldrich assures, “but aesthetically it’s pretty much the same.” Come for dinner, stay for the show. (Anticipated opening in April.)