Former Underbelly Chef Opens New Restaurant

Southern Goods will be located in the Heights.

This summer’s string of eagerly-anticipated, high-profile restaurant openings adds another establishment to its roster this weekend.Southern Goods, the collaboration between former Underbelly chef Lyle Bento and former Cottonwood/Liberty Station partner Charles Bishop, will begin a quiet soft opening Friday night, the restaurantannounced on Facebook.

Beginning Friday at 4 pm, Southern Goods will preview its burgers, cocktails and bar menu. On Saturday and Sunday, sous chef Patrick Feges, the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Rising Star Chef of the Year winner,will serve his barbecue beginning at noon until it sells out, after which the restaurant will serve its bar menu.

When diners make their first visit to Southern Goods, they’ll find that the space has been completely transformed from its days as Table 19. The wall that faces 19th Street has been replaced with large windows. Although the inside only seats approximately 65 people, an expansive covered patio will soon be finished in the parking lot to provide additional seating. Inside, the space features exposed brick walls, rustic-looking wooden tables and a 22-seat bar.

On Thursday night, Bento, Feges and chef de cuisine JD Woodward, who served as executive chef at Goro & Gun and worked with the other two chefs at Underbelly, previewed the restaurant’s modern perspective on Southern cuisine. As Bento repeatedly told the sold-out crowd, the overarching theme of the menu is “fun,” and, if the smiles and animated conversation at the dinner are any indication, the patrons seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Part of that sense of whimsy came from the use of familiar ingredients showed up in unexpected ways. For example, slow-cooked collard greens appeared as a side but not with the expected fried chicken. Instead, Southern Goods served four pieces of delicately fried, incredibly juicy quail with a side of jalapeno jelly and bite-sized mini biscuits in a “bucket” sourced from nearby ice cream shop Fat Cat Creamery. By dipping the quail directly into the jelly, diners could enjoy sweet, spicy, salty and crunchy in each bite.

Other highlights included seared yellow edge grouper on creamed corn bread, head cheese tortellini and smoked, braised beef shank with hominy ragu. Bento showed some creativity with his Southern riff on chawamushi, the Japanese egg custard that’s a staple of Kata Robata’s menu, by adding Louisiana-sourced bowfin caviar and pickled okra. Even dessert — banana bread turned into bread pudding and served with caramelized bananas — managed to inject some ingenuity into classic bananas Foster.

Inadequate air conditioning was the evening’s only downside. Thankfully, the staff kept water and cocktails coming to keep the crowd cool, and Bishop promised a solution is on the way.

Exactly which of Thursday night’s dishes will be on the opening menu is still up for debate, but the items show that Bento and his team are off to a promising start. If Southern Goods can execute consistently, it will live up to the talent of its staff and emerge as one of 2015’s most promising new restaurants.