Newly Opened Restaurants and Bars on our Radar

By: Hannah Lee Leidy

Eight of the South’s newly opened restaurants and watering holes to watch from an open air food market in Miami to a vintage-inspired cocktail destination in Nashville.

Le Loup | Nashville

Located directly above the highly acclaimed restaurant, the Optimist, Le Loup, meaning “the wolf,” opened its doors this January transporting guests into a vintage-inspired, craft cocktail destination that fully leans into its moody-yet-luxe persona by offering exceptional classic cocktails. With an expansive menu of fifty-plus cocktails, including Originals, Classics, Forgotten Classics and Tributes, the menu has something for cocktail enthusiasts and novices alike. The menu features decadent snacks, including deep water oysters and a variety of sea fare (think sea creatures like spot prawns and razor clams) followed by house favorites like the classic smoked fish dip with “club” crackers, raclette-laced house “tots,” scallop crudo, and foie gras and duck liver parfait. Add this to your Nashville itinerary for a pre-meal cocktail or a decadent nightcap.

Queenburger | Durham, North Carolina

For a classic smashburger, the newly opened restaurant Queenburger housed in Durham’s American Tobacco Campus can’t be beat. From the owners of Durham’s award-winning Kingfisher Cocktail Bar and recent addition Queeny’s, this is the first brick and mortar location for Sean Umstead and Michelle Vanderwalker’s wildly successful backyard burger bar, which originated as a pandemic pivot. The signature double-patty smashburger is made of local grass-fed Baldwin beef, griddled onions, Ashe County hoop cheese, Old North Meats pickles, and special sauce. Alternatively, opt for the beet-rich veggie and vegan burgers with shoestring fries, and finish it off with a cocktail designed by Umstead to complement the tastiest burger in town.

The Grey Market and the Diner Bar| Austin

Pick up a handful of grab-and-go provisions from softly opened the Grey Market, helmed by award-winning partners Mashama Bailey and Johno Morisano of the Savannah icon the Grey–a formerly segregated 1938 Greyhound Bus terminal they transformed into an essential American dining destination with a mile-long list of accolades. They also opened the first Grey Market in Savannah combining their love of New York-style bodegas with the convenience of the Southern lunch counter.

Austin’s Grey Market takes similar inspiration from the flagship Savannah location as a community gathering place with counter-service, display cases filled with baked goods, grab-and-go items and provisions, like a Sunday fried chicken set with Pullman bread and bread and butter pickles. Guests can slide into a contemporary, bucket-seat bar stool at the lunch counter or opt for a spot in the outdoor dining area to take in the downtown Austin scene. The co-authors of Black, White and The Grey will also bring the Diner Bar to Austin as an all-day, full-service restaurant and bar where guests can indulge in an assortment of raw and roasted oysters with vodka alongside bar snacks and well-crafted drinks in the Thompson Austin’s lobby. Under Bailey and chef de cuisine Kristine Kittrell’s guidance, the menu features a range of seasonal Southern dishes layered with Texan inspiration, such as Savannah red rice balls with comeback sauce, foie gras & grits, and country pasta.

Milkbread | Davidson, North Carolina

The new all-day, breakfast-focused cafe from husband-wife duo Joe and Katy Kindred opened late January to such fanfare eager customers wiped out their supply of glazed, pillowy doughnuts on the first weekend. After a brief catch up, Milkbread has earned the same cult following of the Kindreds’ other two North Carolina restaurants, Hello, Sailor and Kindred.

Beyond the irresistible doughnuts and not-to-miss “Mini Cinnies,” the all-day cafe that was conceptualized in March 2020 in response to Covid-19 serves crispy chicken sandwiches, roasted mushroom and tahini or smoked ham and gruyere toast, locally roasted coffees, and small production, independent wines.

“This concept has been in the works for quite some time, when, like every other restaurant, we were forced to pivot when the pandemic hit to get through to the other side,” Katy Kindred says. “We are eager to gather our community into our sunny new place that was conceptualized during a dark time in our world.”

Smorgasburg | Miami

From the hospitality group behind the largest open air food market in America with locations in New York and Los Angeles, Smorgasburg launches its Miami iteration this March.

The original Smorgasburg, a play on the Swedish term meaning a wide array of foods, started in Williamsburg, New York, in 2011 regularly drawing in crowds of 10,000 on a good afternoon and serving as an affordable starting point for food vendors wanting to test out their concepts for a large audience. Smorgasburg Miami will be open on Saturdays from 11 am to 6 pm in the epicenter of Wynwood. The 50,000 square-foot park-like setting will ultimately host sixty food vendors and about ten retail vendors.

According to Becherano Cohen, owner of Omotenashi Group behind the concept, “We are bringing Smorgasburg to Miami to provide the right spotlight and conditions for these vendors to flourish and grow and to build a market that represents the talent and diversity of the South Florida food scene. At its core, Smorgasburg allows vendors to launch their own successful food concept without having to take the risk and undergo the headaches associated with opening up a brick and mortar.”

Atrium | Atlanta

Atlanta’s Ponce City Market recently got an infusion of color as Atrium opened its whimsical doors last month serving a modern American menu with European influence. Guests are welcomed into eclectic, bright interiors designed by Smith Hanes studios, with thoughtful elements crafted by local artisans including hand-painted tiles on the bar, bold floral installations, and an  imaginative mural.

The new eatery from Oliva Restaurant Group, which is behind many Atlanta favorites, features the group’s signature fresh, local ingredient-driven menus and curated interiors. The swanky digs  make for a prime drinking destination with an extensive menu of globally inspired punches, classic cocktails, beer, wine, and zero proof drinks in the Parlor from beverage director Demario Wallace. In the bistro, executive chef Cole Pate offers a menu of seasonally driven, vegetable-forward appetizers, crudos, light pastas, and larger entrees for sharing. Highlights include agnolotti with duck & celery root filling; fluke with grapefruit, horseradish, créme fraîche and chive; bistro steak with roasted sunchokes, king oyster mushroom, coffee and pickled red onion; and a chocolate torte with shortbread, coffee mousse, caramel gelée, cocoa nib tuile and strawberries.

Islander 71 Fish House and Deck Bar| Isle of Palms, South Carolina

Just in time for boat days and beach outings, Islander 71 will open later this spring on the intracoastal waterway at the Isle of Palms Marina. Local islanders Dave and Chrissy Lorenz saw the need for a seafood-forward, family-friendly waterfront eatery after the long-running Morgan Creek Grill closed there in 2020.

The couple behind nearby Sullivan’s Island spot Mex 1 plan to reinvigorate the space with a menu of locally caught seafood, classic coastal cocktails, and a major renovation. They hope it will serve as a neighborhood hangout for islanders and tourists alike with an expanded outdoor deck and sprawling views of the water to enjoy coastal sunsets.

Wild Oats | Houston

Inside the Houston Farmers Market, Chris Shepherd and the Underbelly Hospitality team opened Wild Oats in February. Live fire serves as a central element of the restaurant with a menu composed of ingredients sourced from farmers market purveyors. Chef-partner Nick Fine’s menu tells the story of the Lone Star State’s diverse culture in a space representing the tranquility of the Texas Hill Country.

Texas food is easy to stereotype,” Fine says. “This restaurant is about rejecting those stereotypes and showing the underbelly of our state—the ingredients, the people and cultures who make it one of the most diverse in the nation. My hope with this restaurant is to highlight Texas cuisine from Gulf Coast shrimp to the quail found in the Panhandle and everything in between.”

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