Chef Joey Ward’s debut concept, Southern Belle, is officially open to the public today, Wednesday, November 13. Affectionately named as a nod to the strong-willed, Southern women Ward knows and loves — including his wife and restaurant co-owner, Emily — Southern Belle is connected through a secret passageway to his second restaurant concept, Georgia Boy, which opens on November 20th. Georgia Boy will offer a separate, 16-seat tasting menu by reservation only. Ward has pulled in a talented crew of well-known names in the Atlanta culinary landscape to join him at both restaurants, including Chef de Cuisine Spencer Gomez, Pastry Chef Billy Cole, and General Manager and Sommelier Cate Hatch.
Originally from Georgia, Ward has created a menu that celebrates the diversity of the arts, culture, food, and people of his home state. Ward and Gomez embrace hyper-seasonality, championing local farms and the multicultural flavors of the “New South” to showcase their interpretation of the modern American South through food.
Southern Belle’s plates are designed to be shareable and will change frequently. Small plates include Ceviche with Local Sweet Potato, Fermented Chilis, and Leche de Tigre; Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Chicken Ham, Bama White Sauce, and Fried Chicken Skins; and Beef Short Rib Braised in Dr. Pepper with Warm Spices, Fermented Black Bean, and Dried Plum, to name a few.
The restaurant’s cocktail program, designed by Greg Best and Paul Calvert of Atlanta’s acclaimed Ticonderoga Club, is an ode to Southern distilleries. Centered around seasonal twists on classics, the cocktail menu draws inspiration from across the South to complement Chef Ward’s savory cuisine. Alongside cocktails ranging from a classic Vieux Carre to the more modern Long Way Down (O4W Gin, Lemon, Benedictine, and Angostura Bitters), bar selections also include a number of zero-proof cocktails, local craft beers, and a biodynamic wine list curated by General Manager and Sommelier Cate Hatch.
To end meals on a sweet note, Executive Pastry Chef Billy Cole serves Warm Sticky Toffee-Coffee Pudding for Two with East Pole Coffee & ASW Bourbon Toffee Sauce. This decadent pudding is paired with Biscoff Cookie Ice Cream churned tableside on an authentic Delta galley cart, an homage to the Atlanta-based airline.
Every Sunday afternoon on the patio (weather permitting; heaters are in place), Southern Belle will host “Sunday Fundays” with live music. In addition to Southern Belle’s regular food and beverage offerings, guests can look forward to specials on the Big Green Egg, which will change each week. To kick off the series this Sunday, November 17, Chef Ward will offer a Platter of Grilled Oysters with House-pickled Garnish and House-made Andouille Sausage.
Southern Belle’s visual identity was executed by Atlanta-based Square Feet Studio. The restaurant’s interior design evokes a Southern, homey feel with exposed brick walls, tufted furniture, salon-style art, and the historic building’s original tin ceiling.
Within Southern Belle, furnishings, fixtures, and interior detailing merge and translate the varied design influences. The curved corners present in the moderne elements of the Plaza development are interpreted into soft archways and a petite curved bar and overhead soffit. A neon blue sign that says “Bless Your Heart” anchors the bar and embodies the idea of blended and reinterpreted design features: a colloquial Southern euphemism rendered in bright buzzing neon. The blue neon is translated throughout the space in bright blue lacquered tabletops, high gloss trim, and blue milk glass accessories.
Opal globe lights and wall sconces illuminate the dining and lounge areas (a softer interpretation of the blinking bare bulbs within the iconic Majestic Diner’s illuminated fascia). Patterned wallpapers, indulgent velvets and mohair, tufted details, and gallery walls curated by chef/owner Joey Ward provide a soft overlay to the existing pressed tin ceiling, exposed brick walls, and long shotgun space.
Southern Belle seats 45 guests inside and 40 guests on a seasonally-open outdoor patio. Long picnic tables line the patio, which was designed with “Sunday Fundays” for restaurant industry workers in mind. With a Big Green Egg and a mural of Azalea Flowers designed by Creature Comforts Brewing Company, Southern Belle’s outdoor space is an ode to both Brooklyn’s alley patios (often adorned with string lights) and a lively urban beer garden.
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