Southern hospitality and fried chicken will be the highlights of South, a restaurant scheduled to open in Southside this September.
The menu is split in two: "Old School" classics, such as fried catfish with red beans and rice or barbequed tiger shrimp over cheesy grits, and "New School" dishes with a California flair, such as crispy pork belly salad with a pepper jelly vinaigrette or seared halibut alongside okra succotash.
More traditional dishes are inspired by what co-owner N'Gina Kavookjian used to eat growing up - her family has roots in Louisiana and Mississippi - while the contemporary plates are the work of chef Michael Wright, who previously worked at Kavookjian's now closed Granite Bay restaurant, Eight American Bistro.
"A lot of people don't think Southern food is really refined, but it is," said Kavookjian, who owns the place with her husband Ian. "The food I ate as a child was balanced, fresh and layered with flavor."
Served for lunch and dinner, the "Old School" dishes are usually in the $8 to $11 range and the "New School" dishes run from $10 to $20. There will be brunch too - including chicken and waffles and eggs benedict on biscuits - in the $8 to $15 range.
"We want people coming often, not just for special occasions," Kavookjian said. "It's important to be accessible to the people who live around us."
A filling plate of fried chicken will go for $13. It's Kavookjian's mom's recipe and probably South's specialty - Kavookjian tells tales of her family hiding stashes and fighting over it at parties.
While most ingredients will be purchased locally, a few - certain Southern brands of grits and secret spices - will be imported. The beer list will be local as well, and Kavookjian hopes to eventually roll out a craft cocktail menu.
South resides in the historic "Paris French Bakery" and later Sacramento Tofu Company building in Southside Park. Kavookjian said she's going for a laid-back atmosphere made cozy with pillows and curtains - it's supposed to feel more like a Southern home than a business.
The owners spent a year walking around Sacramento looking for an ideal neighborhood for their restaurant, and they landed on Southside.
"It has a true sense of community," Kavookjian said. "Everyone knows each other and takes care of each other."
South:1915 6th St. in Southside Park