The famed Jonas family brings a little down-home cooking to Belmont, North Carolina.
Longing for a hefty helping of grandma’s chicken ’n dumplings with a little country crooning served on the side? On June 13, the Jonas family (of the famed former Jonas Brothers trio) opened the doors to Nellie’s Southern Kitchen in the quaint Southern city of Belmont, North Carolina. The restaurant pays tribute to the late Jonas family matriarch, Nellie Jonas, a resident of Belmont and grandmother to Kevin Jonas Sr.—the father of the famous pop music stars. Jonas Sr. directs overall restaurant operations, while sister Joy Auten serves as managing director.
The opening was a star-studded affair, with guests including the Jonas brothers themselves—Kevin, Joe, and Nick—plus little brother Frankie, show biz pro Tony Orlando, and members of the rock band Ambrosia.
“We have taken great care in restoring this 80-year-old building, assembling our team, and developing a menu my grandmother would approve of,” Jonas Sr., says in a press release. The restaurant’s staff of nearly 100 includes both foodservice employees and musical entertainers.
Executive Chef Ben Sholiton, who has been part of 12 restaurant openings during his culinary career, attributes part of the restaurant’s opening–month success to its prime real estate.
“Our restaurant is in the geographic and the cultural center of Belmont,” Sholiton says. “It’s right smack dab in the middle of everything, so anybody who lives in the community can’t help but know that it’s here.”
Sholiton says the restaurant prides itself on both homegrown ingredients and talent.
“We’re really showcasing a lot of the local stuff that we have available from North Carolina,” Sholiton says. Popular proteins include pork, poultry, and seafood. A summer opening also allowed Sholiton and his kitchen staff to work with the state’s plentiful produce.
“I’m very proud of how we’ve sourced all of our ingredients,” Sholiton says. “Our tomatoes are being grown right down the street.”
Regarding local talent, Nellie’s Southern Kitchen features a house band every Monday through Saturday night, which sings various sing-along country and Southern rock songs like Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” On Sundays, set bands perform gospel and bluegrass during brunch.
Portions of the restaurant service staff are also trained professional singers: They frequently surprise patrons by joining in with the house band at random.
“Megan always sings Jolene,” Sholiton says of one of the restaurant’s servers. “When Jolene comes up, she’s at her table and she says, ‘Can y’all just excuse me for a minute?’ and jumps up on stage, sings ‘Jolene,’ works the whole crowd, and then comes right back to the table and says, ‘Is there anything else I can get for y’all right now?’”
For now, Nellie’s Southern Kitchen will stay put in its namesake South, but Sholiton envisions brand expansion in the future. The executive chef says the restaurant has received interest for development in Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, and Branson, Missouri.
“I’d like to see at least 10 more,” Sholiton says. “It’s Southern food and it translates to everywhere. There really is no place we can’t go.”