Chef Peter Booker experiments with unique items on the daily-changing menu like wild boar | Credit: Ashley Rose Stanol

Ryan and Kelleanne Jones’ newest restaurant Southbound is more than a place to eat: It’s a creative concept that takes inspiration from its surroundings.

“Our concepts work around the space that we find, and we create the concept around that,” said Ryan Jones.

Southbound owners Ryan (right) and Kelleanne bring live-fire cooking to their new downtown restaurant | Photo by Ashley Rose Stanol

Ryan and Kelleanne, who also own Community Table and Bar Pizza, opened their long-awaited newest project in February, fulfilling their dream of having a restaurant with a live-fire grill, a method of cooking over an open wood or charcoal fire.

“I stumbled across a live-fire grill that I just fell in love with, and I always wanted one,” Ryan Jones said. “We started planning this concept when we met our landlord. We were talking about what we wanted to do, and we expressed that we wanted to do a live-fire, and that sparked his interest.”

It took the Jones’ four and a half years to open Southbound at 72 Cannon St. downtown. The building had previously burnt down in the early 2010s, so having a live-fire grill played off its history.

The live-fire grill may be the star, but Southbound is a stunning establishment. An emerald green Moroccan tile bar surrounds the grill area, encouraging communication with chefs and guests. The upstairs displays a contrasting second story with vaulted shiplap ceilings and brass, black and marble accents.

Focus on fresh

Southbound has created a buzz for several reasons, from its live-fire method to a daily- changing food menu.

“[Southbound] is fluid, always,” Jones said. “We keep that fine line because we don’t want to spin off and go, you know, Asian or South American, but we have to go on brand with the wood-burning fire. Keeping things on brand [with the fire] is one of the biggest focuses.”

Although it has a fluid menu, a char and sear approach arises from the live-fire.

“Grilled char is something we constantly have. We try to have a beef steak element, game, seafood and something fish-driven. We want to keep the balance,” Jones said. In doing so, they may have elements of surprise, like elk.

“Elk is usually a fun one. When we’ve had elk on the menu, we sell out in no time. Nobody sees it; it’s not often offered, so we sell a lot of it.”

Chef Peter Booker experiments with unique items on the daily-changing menu like wild boar | Photo by Ashley Rose Stanol

In addition to fun meats like elk and wild boar, Southbound strives to give its guests innovative dishes they may not see anywhere else, like serving seared foie gras on sweet bread.

“One of our biggest [approaches] is what are people not doing, and what do we appreciate in food?” Jones said. “We always go back there. When people do foie gras, they tend to do a cold preparation, but the seared foie gras is just so good.”

Southbound’s menu is ever-changing, but some specific elements, like the dry-aged steak tartare, tend to remain. The decision for what goes on the daily menu is always food- and product-driven, keeping in mind what’s in season at the moment.

Spirits and hospitality

The experience is maximized by a collaborative effort and an atmosphere that prioritizes hospitality.

Shane Meszaros, Southbound’s hospitality and beverage director | Photo by Ashley Rose Stanol | Credit: Ahsley Rose Stanol

“Everyone who comes through that front door should feel relaxed and at home,” said Shane Meszaros, Southbound’s hospitality and beverage director. “We want you to come as you are and enjoy a fine dining culinary experience,” he said.

Southbound encourages its servers to interact with guests and communicate any pertinent details to their hostesses. Meszaros explained this effort builds relationships with guests and makes continued visits more personalized.

Meszaros previously worked at Arnaud’s in New Orleans and took inspiration from the Big Easy in creating the beverage program.

“I took a few New Orleans classics and brought them to Charleston, like the Sazerac and Vieux Carré that have been tenants of New Orleans classics for a long time, because we have many mirrored elements in our cuisine. Creole culture and Gullah-Geechee food are also very similar, so I said, ‘Why can’t we have a sister beverage program?’ ” Meszaros said.

Southbound uses fresh, hand-squeezed juices made daily, homemade grenadine, passion fruit syrup and orgeat.

“We make our own orgeat from in-house, fire-roasted almonds, utilizing our fire downstairs,” Meszaro said. “In general, we wanted our drink program to be balanced and delicious.”
But that’s not all: Southbound’s wine list boasts selections from small-production, family-grown wines from classic growing regions worldwide, giving guests endless options to accompany their meals.

One thing is certain, a night at Southbound is sure to give diners a unique experience with ample options to choose from and a knowledgeable staff that’s always eager to learn. The key to a perfect night at Southbound? Meszaros said, “Trust your server. They can curate an experience for you in the moment.”

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