Radar: New Restaurants Around the South

By: Hannah Lee Leidy

Seven of the South’s new restaurants on our watch, from a North Carolina Mexican cocina and tequila library to an eclectic tropical roadhouse in New Orleans.

Maya | Charleston

Inspired by Mexico’s vibrant and diverse cuisine, Maya is set to open late this summer in the former Macintosh space on King Street. Executive chef Brett Riley has developed an ingredient-driven menu and uses a traditional nixtamalization process for house made chips, tortillas, and other dishes. This new restaurant’s interior will embrace minimalism while paying homage to the Yucatán Coast. The space will feature an open-air patio, full bar, open-fire cooking, and live music.

Bull & Finch Gastropub | Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

Mount Pleasant’s newest beer-and-burger spot is slated to open September 1. The upscale neighborhood hangout will focus on innovative, fresh cuisine and local beer in a pub-style setting with a twenty-seat bar and an upscale dining room. Soups, salads, chargrilled rustic toasts, sandwiches, and desserts will fill Bull & Finch’s menu, and the emphasis will be on shared plates. Expect the likes of duck confit sliders, smoked chicken wings, arancini, and duck fat fries. Local beers from more than ten Charleston breweries––including Munkle Brewing Company, Westbrook Brewing Company, Coast Brewing Co., Palmetto Brewing Co., and Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co.––will be on tap at this new restaurant, in addition to an approachable selection of reds, whites, and bubbles.

Recently Opened New Restaurants

Mister Mao | New Orleans

Mister Mao opened to the public in New Orleans Uptown neighborhood in late July. This highly-anticipated new restaurant was opened by chef Sophina Uong and her husband and business partner William “Wildcat” Greenwell. Uong serves up eclectic, globally-inspired cuisine with an ever-changing selection of small plates served from roving carts [Note: This has been temporarily paused due to Covid-19 concerns].

The menu begins with “drinking snacks” like the deviled almonds and plantain chaat––an aromatic Indian riff on bar nuts and banchan mao––and Pineapple Hawaiian Bread with grilled eggplant caviar, baharat, and saba. There are dinner options under “foods we love to share” and spicy options under “these bring us joy and hellfire heartburn” for those in search of spice. The space is described as a tropical roadhouse with funky decor; guests enter through the bar, from which they get a preview of the bustling dining room that is equal parts tropical bungalow and jungle.

A’Verde | Cary, North Carolina

This fall, Mexico is reintroduced to the South through chef Katsuji Tanabe’s forthcoming cocina and tequila library, A’Verde. In addition to featuring regional ingredients and traditional Mexican cuisine, the new restaurant will also offer one of the largest selections of tequila in the region. Tanabe has developed a menu that showcases some of his favorite dishes, from cornbread and refried beans to pork shanks and octopus tacos. Equally unique, the interior evokes a whimsical indoor garden, full of greenery, hanging flowers, and Mexican artwork. 

Commons Club | New Orleans

Opened in unison with Virgin Hotels New Orleans in August 2021, Commons Club is the establishment’s rendition of a classic hotel bar and restaurant. The social club vibe of this new restaurant features an array of dining spaces. Settle around the communal chef’s table and open kitchen, the relaxed porch, or private dining options. Led by executive chef Alex Harrel, the kitchen will put out creative and contemporary Southern dishes like quail, grilled tuna, a wagyu burger, and beef tartar. Craft cocktails, a curated wine and champagne selection, and tempting bar bites will be available to those looking for a more casual experience among the glamorous and gilded interiors.

Ella’s on 2nd | Nashville

Ella’s exudes the Southern hospitality for which Nashville is known. Named for the Hyatt Centric co-owner’s grandmother, the restaurant will pay homage to upscale Southern cuisine combined with modern vegetarian fare. The dining room looks into the open kitchen. The view allows guests to feel involved in the food prep process while enjoying the smells of a working kitchen. The new eatery is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Expect dishes offering a classic blend of fresh ingredients in their daily salads, meat roasts, and even garnishing their robust cocktail program. 

Georgia James Tavern | Houston

The menu swings from salads, sandwiches, burgers, and cast-iron seared steaks to entrees from the wood-burning oven at Houston’s newest casual steakhouse. Matthew “Tally” Coburn will run the kitchen and work to build a sense of community between farmers and the restaurant.

In addition to the tavern’s meat-driven favorites, pastry director Victoria Dearmond is creating a dessert program that is simple and comfortable. Treats like a wood-fired apple crumble among other homespun favorites will provide guests a sweet finish to their evening. With a nod to the Art Deco elements of the existing building, designers Jana Erwin and Audrey Tehauno created a dark and cozy tavern with a touch of Old Hollywood. Think custom marquee-style lights around the bar and vintage-inspired hand-blown glass wall sconces.

Interested in seeing what else has opened as of late? Find out on our monthly Radar roundup.

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