When searching to replace the defunct Au Pied de Cochon, the InterContinental Hotel in Buckhead reached out to Oprah’s former personal chef - two-time James Beard Award winner and restaurateur extraordinaire Art Smith - to create an upscale, yet casual dining concept that focuses on the heritage and romance of the South. Taking the success of his other famed restaurants and blending it with his southern upbringing, Chef Smith opened Southern Art & Bourbon Bar bringing a freshness to the foods and drinks that reflects the diversity and culture of southern cuisine. The real charm of Southern Art & Bourbon Bar is how good old-fashioned southern hospitality is interwoven into every aspect of this eatery. Through its staff, Southern Art & Bourbon Bar has figured out how to wow the senses with grace and style making for a most comforting dining experience.
The gateway to Southern Art is the Bourbon Bar. It is so easy to get lost within its world as here the true American spirit, whiskey, takes center stage. There are over seventy high-end small batch American whiskies to choose from. Amongst the pride of the South - bourbon, there are some other gems to consider, like Balcones Baby Blue, made in Texas with Atole, Hopi blue corn; the result is a ultra-smooth sipper that offers earthy citrus, kettle corn aromas with playful vanilla and toasted almonds flavors that coat the palate. To really arouse the senses, consider one of the magical libations made by the multi-talented “Mistress of Potions”, Arianne Fielder. Taking the inspiration of the bartenders of yesteryear, Arianne places her own creative twist on these time-honored classic cocktails. The Scarlett O’Hare is a take off of the classic Chicago Cocktail – using Chicago’s own Lion’s Pride Spelt Organic Whiskey with a splash of Cointreau, local honey, and a housemade orange bitter that’s topped off with Moet Chandon champagne; each sip of this hypnotic drink seems to brighten the glow within the smile; but be careful of those alluring winks, and after a second you just may wink back.
Heading up the kitchen is Executive Chef Anthony Gray whose talents are astonishing. Before taking over the helm at Southern Art, Chef Gray was the executive chef at High Cotton, one of Charleston’s finest dining establishments. Bringing with him to Southern Art is his passion for creating memorable meats, which is evident with the Southern Art Butcher’s Board; it is truly a labor of love. The charcuterie is an array of savory housemade meats accompanied with tangy mustards and lush relishes. Even though this is a fabulous place to start, the offerings from the uniquely designed butcher store-like ham bar are equally exciting to explore. The artisan ham selection is extensive and each is distinctive in texture and taste – this is surely a ticket to hog heaven. If this hasn’t quite awakened those sleepy taste buds, then what Oprah calls the ultimate chicken soup certainly will. Addie Mae’s Chicken and Dumplings is a homage to Chef Smith’s mother and before you know it, you are savoring those final drops of broth – it is that good. Another not-to-be missed southern classic is the fried green tomatoes but what makes these so special is they’re pickled giving each bite a tantalizing twang.
Chef Gray’s cooking style is to let the food’s terroir to shine within his recipes honoring its source, which imparts a soulful feeling onto his offerings. On most menus catfish is overlooked, but when it’s good it’s really good; at Southern Art it’s not just good, it’s fabulous! The mild tasting flaky morsels of this freshwater fish from North Carolina are accented by the crispy cornmeal crust giving each bite scrumptious contrasting textures. It’s served with creamy Anson Mill cheese grits, a sassy green tomato apple relish, and crumbled Broadbent bacon that gives a subtle smokiness to the dish. If looking for a hardy entrée, then the Flintstone-like Niman Ranch Pork Shank is your thing. The 18 hour slow cooked fork tender meat literally falls of the bone, which can serve as a great dog “forgive me for having fun without you” treat; it’s accompanied with a sweet potato purée and mouth-watering ham braised greens. Nothing more defines southern living than Fried Chicken; Southern Art’s spin on this classic recipe should be, if not already considered their signature dish – it is one of the best chicken offerings in the city. The flavorful free-range bird is crisp, moist, and oh so juicy and is served with Yukon gold mashed potatoes that’s topped with a feisty red pepper gravy - yum.
When you think things couldn’t get any better at Southern Art, they do. Pastry Chef Meredith Miller takes those dreamy feeling of fireflies and warm gentle breezes into her desserts. These decadent treats are on display on the pie table at the entrance of the dining room; what a way to begin a meal, fixated on yummy treats. The one that I thought is pure genius is the Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Pie- a malty pretzel crust filled with a duo chocolate cream topped with a salty caramel crème Chantilly. Southern dining is all about sharing time with friends and loved ones evoking new memories, laughter, and companionship. At Southern Art & Bourbon Bar the pleasure of partaking in this ritual is only a bite away, so why wait? Bon Appétit Y’all!
LGTG FRIENDLY *****
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