Southern Proper Opens Tonight in the South End
Chef Jason Cheek does traditional Southern cuisine inside a warm, old-meets-new space on Harrison Ave.
The South End gets some new Southern hospitality tonight. Chef Jason Cheek, a North Carolina native and alum of Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette’s restaurants, debuts Southern Proper on Thursday, March 1.
“This is a chicken-and-beer joint but with a lot more technique involved,” Cheek says. “A lot of our philosophy inside the space is craft and kindness.”
That means traditional Southern cuisine, inside an old-meets-new space on Harrison Ave.
The interior design is “very much developed around being in my grandmother’s living room, crossed over with being inside an tobacco barn,” Cheek says. Look for upgraded, recycled materials, like raw, North Carolina pine walls and beams; antique lamps hand-picked by Cheek; and a tin-plated bar salvaged from an old theater.
Located on the ground floor of the shiny, new Girard building, “the exterior is very modern and very Natick Mall,” Cheek previously told Eater Boston. Southern Proper makes use of natural light that the floor-to-ceiling windows of new construction provide, but with the chef-partner’s vision, aided by RODE Architects and BHaley Designs, “We’re trying to make it as warm as possible, and as comfortable as possible.”
The menu is rooted in Cheek’s childhood cuisine, from buckets of fried chicken, to hush puppies, charred okra with chow-chow, shrimp and grits, smoked pork shoulder, and more. But it’s finessed by a decade in Boston restaurants including KO Prime, Toro, Coppa, Little Donkey, Sam’s on the waterfront, Merrill & Co., and as opening chef of Esti Parsons’s the Maiden.
He’s sourcing some products from the South, like peanuts, black-eyed peas, and revered Duke’s Mayonnaise. Most other things, though, he’s keeping local: chicken from Misty Knoll Farms in Vermont, PT Farms pork from New Hampshire, East Coast oysters, Maine grains, regional produce, and a trio of exclusive Parlor Ice Cream Co. flavors.
Parlor’s Jacqueline Dole has created lemon pie; salted caramel popcorn; and chocolate chess pie ice creams for Southern Proper. The restaurant will offer them by the scoop, in house-made cones, or as ice cream sandwiches on biscuits made on-site.
“A large part of Southern culture, growing up, is the more local, the better it is,” Cheek says.
That philosophy applies to the beer list, as well. There will be a dozen or so in bottles and cans, plus nine on draft; other lines are reserved for cocktails on tap. Beverage director Katie Gilroy, formerly of Buttermilk & Bourbon, is overseeing a list that highlights brown spirits and Southern classics, like a mint julep, plus house drinks like the Pinochle, a draft cocktail of peanut-washed rye whiskey and cola, Zagat reported. Southern Proper has a 2 a.m. license.
Besides the 16-seat bar, there are 90 seats inside at banquettes and modern farmhouse chairs, and standing room at tiered tables custom-designed by Cheek and Haley. There’s a section of the dining room that can be cordoned off by a curtain for semi-private dining, and Cheek hopes to debut the 30-seat patio as soon as the weather allows.
“You’re talking about smoked meats, cold beer—it’d be foolish not to push for patio season,” he says.
Southern Proper begins with dinner Tuesday-Saturday from 5-11 p.m., with lunch and Sunday brunch beginning later this spring.
600 Harrison Ave., Boston, 857-233-2421, southernproperboston.com