Since Cadence’s heartbreaking closure six months after its debut, the Mid-Market shutters have just kept rolling in, with Bon Marche, Oro, Volta, and more quickly following suit. It can seem like a serious gamble to open in that neighborhood right now — especially in as big of a space as Cadence — but Jamie Boatner thinks he can make it work.
“I think what happened with a lot of the restaurants that closed was the price points were too high and they were a little too formal,” Boatner said. “I’m nervous just because it’s new and it is a bit of a crazy market right now in general. But even if I was in the hottest neighborhood, I’d still be nervous.”
Combatting that too-formal feel will be Hazel Southern Bar & Kitchen, which is exactly what the name says it is, with traditional Southern fare dominating the menu. Boatner, who brings experience from Sugar Cafe (now Matador), is basing the restaurant after his mother Hazel, and she’s the inspiration for it all (food, name, and decor), and he envisions it being a casual hang out, with shareable food and a fun atmosphere through old movies and sports on televisions near the bar and live music on Sundays.
Chef Casey Hatwig (Lark Creek Restaurant Group, Taste on the Fly) took her recipes and made them a bit healthier, but all the classics are there: fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, red beans and rice, jambalaya, po’boys, and sweet and savory beignets. The menu will not focus on one region of the South, instead pulling inspiration from New Orleans, Georgia, and more, and Hatwig is developing vegetarian dishes, too. Entrees will be in the $15 to $24 range, and sides will be $6 to $10.
Mike Levin (Infusion Lounge, Caban) will act as general manager, and he created the drinks as well, which are all very accessible. Boatner didn’t want crazy craft cocktails, so there will be the classic drinks, plus a few specialty cocktails, punches, wine, and beer starting at $7.
Boatner’s mother is also influencing the design, as Craig Walters (who also designed Black Cat and August 1 Five) is using a painting of Hazel as the inspiration for the space. “It’s going to be a 70’s retro chic, mixed with a little bit of modern,” Boatner explained. He left the bar where it was (toward the back of the space), and is putting in two pool tables, 15 televisions, and a section for more traditional sit-down table dining, for a total of 125 to 140 seats.
If you’re curious to try the food now, Hazel is already supplying the food for Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio, the jazz bar connected next door. Hazel should open the third week of February, and will be open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Stay tuned for more.