Chef Jason Cheek—formerly of Toro and KO Prime—is bringing his Southern roots to the South End. Cheek, who was born and raised in North Carolina, will serve authentic low country cuisine when his first solo venture, Southern Proper, opens its doors on March 1.
“This will not be a barbecue joint,” Cheek says. “I realize that a lot of times when people hear ‘Southern restaurant’ they think barbecue. I’m not going to deprive them of that—we will have smoked items on the menu—but we’re not set up as a barbecue joint, so to speak.”
Taking up residence in new apartment complex the Girard, Southern Proper will meld old and new, with decor comprising of family photos, antiques and raw timber and wood shipped in from North Carolina so that, as Cheek explains, “it’s got that smell to it.” Even the bar has a history, the top made using cut and seared vintage dinner tables with a tin wraparound sourced from an old movie theater in upstate New York.
“We’ve gone through a lot of great pains and trials making sure we’re getting a lot of antique stuff in here,” Cheek says.
The menu will focus on low country cuisine and authentic fare from the Piedmont region, starring family-style dining options like whole racks of pork and fried chicken. There’s also an assortment of contemporary twists, like the hush puppies—corn fritters made using flour, cornmeal, soured corn and buttermilk that are fried and served with fresh honey butter—as well as the pimento cheese, made by mixing peppers, sharp cheddar and mayonnaise, and served with lavender popovers and spicy pepper jam.
The bar program is spearheaded by beverage director Katie Gilroy and will include several taps of local beers, an array of brown spirits and drinks such as the Pinochle. That draft cocktail is inspired by Cheek’s childhood and is made using rye whiskey washed with peanuts before it’s mixed with cola and served in a vintage glass bottle.
With seating for 90 inside and an additional 30 expected on the patio, Cheek hopes he can recreate more than just Southern dishes inside his restaurant. He’s hoping to bring out some of the hospitality that’s synonymous with the region he grew up in.
“This is a very comfortable Southern restaurant,” Cheek says. “We are dedicated to crafting kindness.” ◆
Southern Proper 600 Harrison Ave., Boston. southernproperboston.com