The only constant in the world of restaurants is change, with old favorites unfortunately closing and dozens of new ones popping up like wildflowers after a spring rain. Across the South, excellent eateries are opening so quickly that it’s difficult to keep track. That’s why we wanted to share a handful of some of the most notable new openings in the region over the past few months. Tuck a napkin under your chin and read on to discover what might be your next favorite restaurant or a reason to make a road trip!
Wild Common | Charleston, SC
In Charleston, Cannon Green was a popular venue for special events like weddings and receptions as well as home to an excellent restaurant. The beautiful space is actually constructed around on old “Charleston single house,” and you can still see the original façade of the home inside the main dining space. Last summer, the restaurant portion of the operation shut down for a refresh, reopening as Wild Common with a focus on smaller multi-course tasting menus created using seasonally fresh ingredients. The dining area was also overhauled, but still displays a lovely integration of natural materials to complement the sleek lines of the virtual mansion that has been constructed around the vintage home.
Helming the kitchen of the reboot is Chef Orlando Pagán, formerly the executive chef at the popular Charleston eatery, McCrady’s Tavern. Pagán’s menu changes daily, revolving around four-course tastings plus available wine pairings, and larger groups can opt for a special five-course chef’s table menu featuring innovative modern American cuisine.
The name of the restaurant is consciously connected to Pagán’s vision of the food as he explains: “Wild Common pays homage to the D.H. Lawrence poem of the same name, and we try to infuse a little bit of the wild as well as the ‘common’ or classic into every element of the restaurant. On the menu, that translates to bold, flavorful cuisine using the freshest seasonal ingredients and simple, technique-driven preparations that really allow the distinct elements of the dish to shine through. Behind the bar, that translates to a list of artfully crafted original cocktails as well as our interpretations of some of the classics. Above all, the most important aspect of Wild Common is the highly attuned service and hospitality every guest receives, whether they’re sitting down for a couple of plates and a drink or the full tasting menu experience.
Although the menu is intentionally dynamic, Pagán does have some favorites. He suggests, “A couple of my favorite dishes on the menu right now, ones that have a really great spring influence, are the grilled asparagus with crispy prosciutto, truffle and miso crème fraîche; a diver scallop crudo with local strawberries, hearts of palm and coconut-lemongrass; and a foie gras pastrami agnolotti with daikon radish and pickled chive flowers.”
Pemrose | Nashville, TN
A Nashville restaurant in the popular Gulch neighborhood has also recently undergone a change of ownership and theme as Pemrose has opened into the former home of Fin & Pearl, much like a hermit crab backing into a new shell. The seafood analogy is especially appropriate since both restaurants concentrated on the bounty of the sea as the basis of their menus. Chef Matt Bolus has already earned a vaunted reputation in Music City for his work at The 404 Kitchen just around the corner from his new venture. At 404, Bolus presented his modern interpretations of classic European cuisine, including some fantastic seafood dishes. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to patrons who know the chef spent years working for a fishmonger in London and as a fish butcher for Chef Mike Lata at FIG in Charleston.
RELATED: Good Vibes, Good Food: 2 New Nashville Restaurants We Tried & Loved
At Pemrose, Bolus can concentrate on his love of seafood and share his talents with lucky diners. He promises, “We work daily to find the highest quality seafood from around the world to offer our guests an uncompromising experience. The menu was designed to not only offer dishes that are known and approachable, but also dishes with ingredients that are new and exciting to us and hopefully to our guests as well. We want you to come here, eat, relax, be adventurous, but most of all, have a great time.”
With a menu that features seafood from the seven seas around the world, Bolus offers guidance: “I suggest the king crab. These legs are coming directly from the Bering Sea and are some of the biggest I have ever encountered. We don’t just serve them plain on a plate with drawn butter. Ours are topped with a spicy aioli, basil and caviar, something approachable prepared in a new adventurous way.”
Peppervine | Charlotte, NC
The burgeoning SouthPark neighborhood of Charlotte, NC, recently got even cooler with the addition of Peppervine, a modern American restaurant concept from the owners of Artisanal in Banner Elk, NC. The husband and wife team of Bill and Anita Greene will split up management duties with Anita acting as GM while Bill runs the kitchen. Artisanal is located in a mountain ski town and therefore only open seasonally, but the Greenes are bringing a bit of the rustic look and their attention to excellent service and locally sourced cuisine to the big city with Peppervine.
The name of the restaurant represents this dedication to bringing the country to the city, as the Greenes explain: “With our partners Bob and Rob Lackey, we collectively wanted a representation of something hearty, something a bit wild, and something that will endure. Together we came across Peppervine, also known as kudzu, which is a vine that grows wild in North America and just takes over.”
Fortunately, there’s no kudzu on the menu. What is there is really exciting to the Greenes, who share, “Peppervine’s menu offers an array of small plates for guests to mix and match and share with family and friends. The larger plates are also intended to be shared. The flavors offer unique combinations and influences from around the world. The menu changes constantly, and new flavors and combinations will be available regularly for our guests.” Dishes to consider if you see them on that particular evening’s menu include a playful plate of pimento cheese scones and an innovative sake-cured Kanpachi, a fish that’s a member of the Amberjack family. Be sure to save room for a bowl of Peppervine’s delectable banana cake.
The interior of the restaurant is very organic, with neutral tones and fixtures made from wood and paper. Artistry is very important to the Greenes, and not just in their choices of decor. “Art was also a huge inspiration for us, whether that’s the culinary art on the plate or our partnership with Shain Gallery to provide completely new art on a quarterly rotation throughout the restaurant. The art is for sale, and you’ll find artist information and more about Shain Gallery on our website.”
RELATED: 5 Charlotte Art Galleries That Should Be On Your Radar
Pancake Social | Atlanta, GA
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and at Atlanta’s Pancake Social in Ponce City Market, there’s certainly some pretty compelling evidence that this is true. Pancake Social has quite the all-star team behind the venture beginning with Dan Jacobson, owner of Steel Wave Ventures and formerly of Chick-fil-A; Steven Chan, a 20-year veteran of the Atlanta restaurant industry and founder of Tin Drum Asian Kitchen; Anne Quatrano, James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, W.H. Stiles Fish Camp at Ponce City Market and Floataway Cafe; and Tony Riffel, co-founder of Octane Coffee Company and Elevator Factory.
Together, this group has created an inviting and comfortable space to enjoy their pancake-centric menu from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. The decor features elements of Scandinavian architecture, with an emphasis on clean lines, natural light and raw wood, including locally made butcher block bar and tabletops plus custom-made light fixtures. A coffee and beverage bar greets guests upon entering before they continue into the main dining room for their full repast.
Dan Jacobsen explains the restaurant’s philosophy like this: “We are all about celebrating the joy of pancakes, and we have designed a space and a menu that are ideal for people to gather together to enjoy bespoke breakfast dishes and light lunch fare all day as well as fun beverages, like espressos, cappuccinos, craft juices and brunch cocktails.”
RELATED: Dog-Friendly Spots & Cat Cafes: Atlanta’s Pet-Friendly Dining Scene is HOT
Chef Anne Quatrano worked with Pancake Social’s executive chef Evelyn Ling to develop the menu of seven types of pancakes – from savory to sweet – sandwiches, bowls and more. She has some specific recommendations from the menu for first-time guests: “A few must-have items are our Big Pecan Praline Stack, the avocado toast on our homemade bagel, and our Crispy Chicken Sammie with hot honey drizzle. Plus, you can complement any of these with one of our made-to-order craft juices, like the orange-carrot-coconut juice or house blend coffee.”
With these sorts of amazing new dining options on the scene, maybe you’d better consider doubling up on cardio day so you can visit them all!
For more on the BEST restaurants, recipes and all things Southern dining, click HERE!