In the Field

New Restaurants, Bars, and Wineries in the South

By: Maggie Ward

An urban winery in Charleston, a celebration of the Gulf Coast in New Orleans, and a Lebanese garden transported to a DC rooftop are all on our list of openings to watch this winter.

The Tippling House | Charleston 

When the pandemic hit, sommelier Matt Conway and fiancée Carissa Hernandez departed NYC for a short trip South. Cut to November 2021, they are settled in the Holy City bringing with them expertise channeled into new downtown wine bar the Tippling House. New York’s loss is Charleston’s gain. Well versed in curating unique, extensive wine lists as the former beverage director for celebrity-chef restaurant Marc Forgione, Matt’s vision for Tippling House is “a wine place for everybody” where customers can purchase any bottle by the carafe and try rarer bottles from “Matthew’s Stash” menu. They’ve tapped former Minero chef Alex Yellan for a snacks menu of perfectly paired bites like Tarvin shrimp toast and Carolina gold rice arancini. 

Birdie’s at Common House | Richmond

Common House Richmond, a modern social club in the city’s bustling Arts District, welcomes a new concepts this month with Birdie’s– an intimate, 27-seat café, oyster bar, and wine cellar.  Available to both members of Common House and the public, Birdie’s opens as a full-service café in the daytime, offering specialty gourmet coffees, house made breakfast pastries, and grab-and-go sandwiches and salads. At 4 pm, the space transforms to a lively oyster bar, showcasing the finest selection of Virginia and East Coast oysters as well as a menu of light shareable fare from Executive Chef Matt Greene and Chef de Cuisine Bryan McClure.

J-Bar-M Barbecue | Houston

A new ‘cue joint joins Houston’s entertainment district of EaDo (East Downtown) boasting Texas barbecue traditions like brisket, pork ribs, sausage and pulled pork, plus updated spins on classic sides including cajun-style potato salad, red cabbage slaw and housemade charro beans, marinated cherry tomatoes and cauliflower au gratin. The man behind the smoke is pitmaster Willow Villarreal, who earned a devoted fan base slinging meats from his much acclaimed Willow’s Texas BBQ Food Truck. At J-Bar-M Barbecue, he has all the tools to feed his fans and more with a pit room outfitted with four, 1,000-gallon, offset steel barrel smokers, hand-build by Moberg Smokers of Dripping Springs, Texas. There are also two direct-heat, whole-hog smokers, plus Houston’s only coal-preparation fireplace. The modern space sits on an impressive plot of land that has been in owner John Toomey’s family going back generations. Inside the grand property, contemporary design of beamed ceilings and soaring windows is grounded with nods to Texas tradition with a commissioned “BBQ World” mural featuring a map of historic Houston BBQ restaurants. Currently open Thursday-Sunday, starting with lunch hours 11am-3pm, come early as popularity means they regularly sell out. 

Chemin À La Mer| New Orleans

Donald Link has been the behind many New Orleans staples over the years, showcasing some of the city’s best talent. This time, Link takes a personal approach at Chemin À La Mer offering sweeping panoramic views of the Mississippi River while serving cuisine highlighting his Louisiana heritage and world travels. Dishes will blend Louisiana flavors and gulf seafood with precise, classic French technique resulting in signature dishes like the Côte de Boeuf for two (carved tableside), an Ōra King salmon with french lentils, pan-seared jumbo shrimp served with white beans and pistou, domestic lamb with olive tapenade and garlic rosemary, and charcuterie and foie gras inspired by Link’s trips to Paris and the Burgundy regions of France, in addition to the grand oyster bar serving up the crustacean riches of the gulf coast. While the menu impresses, the design equally astounds drawing upon its “pathway to the sea” concept using coastal colors and rich, wood materials reminiscent of a ship deck to channel its deep connection to the water. It is anchored by expansive floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing spectacular views of the crescent bend for which the city is known. “This restaurant is very personal to me, and I’m proud to be able to incorporate so many elements and inspirations from my life and travels here in partnership with Four Seasons,” said Chef Donald. “It was very important to me to honor the sense of place, and this restaurant and menu pay respect to that. This rich and sultry space reflects its name, ‘pathway to the sea,’ as the Mississippi River plays such a vital role in the fabric of New Orleans, from its commerce at the port to fishing and hunting along its basin to irrigation for crop production to serving as the greatest backdrop for a celebration of food.”

ilili DC | Washington, DC

Imagine feasting mezza-style on a spread of Mediterranean fare in a Lebanese garden complete with lemon trees, white doves, and a flowing fountain. That’s what executive chef and owner Phillippe Massoud has transported to the Wharf neighborhood with the second iteration of ilili with the help of longtime friend and architect Nasser Nakib. Phillippe’s vision for the waterfront restaurant harkens back to his homeland of Beirut, Lebanon and a history in hospitality going back three generations. At ilili DC, the traditions and warm hospitality of this culture set this scene for a melting pot of Lebanese-, Levantine-, and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine—boasting an elevated menu of long-held Lebanese traditions and creative interpretations using ingredients, spices, and aromas from the Levantine terroir and European influences. “We’ve poured our hearts and souls into this restaurant,” Phillipe says, “and we’re looking forward to being a part of the city’s hospitality evolution that continues to take place here. As our most ambitious expansion of ilili, it’s an important step in our mission to elevate and educate the true meaning of the Lebanese table in America.” Come for the spectacularly enchanted atmosphere, stay for the five types of hummus, charred octopus, and a braised lamb shank that will transport you to the Levantine coast.

Druise & Darr | Nashville

Internationally celebrated chef and restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten is behind the Hermitage Hotel’s newest restaurant and bar, Druise & Darr. Located in the former Captiol Grille space, acclaimed designer Thomas Juul-Hansen has reimagined the space with restored 1902 Beaux-Arts details and glamorous modern decor. Michelin-starred chef  Vongerichten will work alongside Executive Chef Kelsi Armijo to create a program committed to fresh, organic and local ingredients at his first location in the Southeast. The modern American menu will change with the seasons  focusing on artisanal and sustainable produce, much of it grown at The Hermitage Hotel’s Garden at Glen Leven. With freshly opened doors, guests can expect dishes celebrating Tennessee culinary riches like Celeriac Katsu, Fall Mushroom Risotto, Roasted Black Sea Bass.

Maiz 64 | Washington, DC 

A trio of Mexican born entrepeneurs brings authentic, regional Mexican fare to 14th street in DC with Maiz 64, named for the 64 varieties of Maïz (the Spanish word for corn).  The kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Alam Méndez Florián, a native of Oaxaca who brings his expertise as chef and partner at Pasillo de Humo in Mexico City to the new venture. At the two-level restaurant, re-designed with accents from Mexican artists and artisanal producers, five different varieties and four different colors of Maïz (corn), imported from Mexico, is found in all of its versions throughout the menu. Guests can kick it off with starters like a broccoli taco with black mole or kampachi Ceviche, before hitting main courses of octopus with pastor marinade or the crispy pork belly with tomatillo & morita sauce, radish-cactus salad. Other highlights include a take on sopa azteca, a corn tortilla soup with a tomato base with queso fresco, avocado, tortilla chips and pasilla chile. Pastry Chef Elisa Reyna rounds out the menu with her take on the traditional churros with sugar and cinnamon coated, and chocolate mousse with a café de olla sorbet. Mixologist Arturo Rojas has created an artisanal mezcal tasting program to rival the food, as well as an agave-forward cocktail menu interlaced with Mexican cultural influences. In addition to the main dining room, the main floor hosts El Comal– a 7 course tasting experience offering diners an evolving menu of traditional “antojitos,” or street food.

Charleston Wine Co. | Charleston

The Holy City’s popular Market Street welcomes urban winery Charleston Wine Co. this December from North Carolina entrepreneur Lindsey Williams, a part of the only 1% of African American winery owners. Williams found success with her first urban winery, Davidson Wine Co., in the suburbs of Charlotte and will be bringing the same “chic-glam vibe” to her newest outpost. Her globally-sourced grapes are processed in Davidson where her bottles range from merlot, pinotage, chardonnay, gewurztraminer, petit verdot, and more. Charleston Wine Co. will serve a rotating variety of eighteen of Williams’ wines, in addition to charcuterie and desserts. 

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