The corner spot along NE Fremont Street last home to Smallwares* will welcome neighbors with a bit of high-end Southern-leaning hospitality—picnic tables and mason-jar lamps to bourbon pickles—when the dining room and bar reopens as SouthFork as early as May 9.
Owned by Eric Schindele and Casey O’Brien, the new venture trades Smallwares' “inauthentic Asian” cuisine for a menu of Southern fare with its own cache of unexpected global dishes, Asian slaw to bone marrow, served in a cheery kitchen setting. (Area outfit 13 Design Lane Interiors redecorated adjoining Barwares too, but they kept the fireplace.)
The pair didn’t intend for their menu to stray so far from the American South. But after parting ways with the restaurant’s original chef early in the early stages of the project, the pair hired former Paley’s Place chef Patrick McKee to lead the kitchen.
Turns out that O’Brien was a fan of McKee’s smart mashups of French technique with Asian ingredients at the chef’s short-lived Pine Street Market micro-restaurant Common Law, which closed last August. When the pair hired McKee for SouthFork, they couldn’t resist asking him to bring his best Common Law dishes “along with him to the party.”
The meat from McKee’s tender Common Law beef tongue banh mi will now show up tossed with an Asian cabbage salad with marinated citrus, fried kale, and peanuts. The micro-restaurant’s bone marrow toast will pair with steamed mussels. SouthFork’s BLT boasts sake-lemongrass-braised pork belly and old school Duke’s mayo, with Common Law’s addictive five-spice potato chips on the side.
The rest of the bill stays a bit more middle-of-the-road Southern, from chicken sausage gumbo and bacon-wrapped rabbit roulade with brussels sprouts to Quinault River steelhead with red wine farro and early summer squash. Plus, tamarind-glazed pork loin and a cheddar and fried onion-topped burger.
It’s a bit of an odd mashup to be sure. But the eclectic, mid-priced menu (entrees $12–26) could be a hit for a neighborhood packed with families in need of an easygoing dinner spot that can satisfy both timid and adventurous eaters at the same table.
“I’m not claiming to be a Southerner,” says McKee with a laugh. “I just want to bring a sense of real, simple food—nothing too fussy.”
SouthFork is shooting for a May 9 opening date, with plans for dinner services, mid-afternoon and late-night happy hours, and live jazz in the bar Fridays and Saturdays to start. And, in the coming months, prepare for Sunday brunch, including griddled polenta cakes with bacon and eggs and biscuits with chorizo gravy.
*Psst: You can now eat Johanna Ware’s intense, satisfying grub again—from fried kale and Sichuan egg noodles with pork and pineapple—at her wee offshoot Wares at the Zipper, which opened a few months back. Hooray!
4605 NE Fremont St
Dinner 5–10 p.m. Tue–Sat starting May 9 (or soon after)
Happy hour 3–7 p.m. and 10 p.m.–close in the bar