I am 100-percent certain that chefs Lee Gregory (The Roosevelt) and Joe Sparatta (Heritage) and farmer Matt Gottwald don't follow runway fashion, but their new collaborative project Southbound is the culinary embodiment of the #cozygirl movement. It’s going to be unapologetically comfortable, but totally hot nonetheless. I love that this line of thinking is catching on in more pockets of the collective consciousness; it makes us all feel good about wanting what we want, when we want it. That could be the catchphrase for Southbound.
“I love building out a restaurant that encapsulates every experience," Gregory explains. "We’ll have a patio. We’ll have a great big, awesome bar. We’ll have banquette seating. Private dining and event space. We can meet all of those expectations—and without a gigantic menu that tries to do too much.”
The menu ranges between a good ol’ fried seafood sandwich to a beautiful steak tartare from Gottwald’s Beechwood Farms, with Gregory and Sparatta splitting time between their original restaurants and the Southbound kitchen to turn out feast after feast. Craig Perkinson, Heritage’s current sous chef, will move into the spotlight as Southbound’s chef de cuisine.
“I’m most excited about our fresh pasta program,” Sparatta says. “We’re going to be getting a big boat of a pasta machine … I can hardly keep up at Heritage with the smaller one, and that’s for 78 seats, compared to Southbound’s 140. And I’m also excited to have someone to bounce things off of again. When I was up north, we used to talk about food for hours after service, like maniacs. Finding that I could do that with Lee made us get close — Lee and some other folks, like Owen [Lane] at Magpie. It’s so important to do your own reading, your own independent studying, to keep your mind engaged. Lee has that same mentality.”
“That’s what gives you the longevity that a chef like Dale [Reitzer, of Acacia] has,” Gregory adds. “As you near 40 and get into your second restaurant, you start thinking, ‘I want what he has.’ I want the guys who’ve worked for me to go on and do cool things of their own, like chefs who worked at Acacia have done. It’s great to see them develop; you know you’ve really left something behind.”
Considering the accolades that The Roosevelt and Heritage have accrued, it’s certain that those who’ve worked under Gregory and Sparatta's tutelage will do just that. That’s what makes the Southbound concept so refreshing. These chefs could absolutely go for the hard-won, experimental critics’ pick, and it would be a brilliant success. Instead, they’re offering something for every palate, giving rewarding dining experiences to the biggest slice of Richmond possible; a place where, as Gregory says, “your kid can get a grilled cheese while you’re having charcuterie and oysters.”
Southbound is slated to open by mid-November in Bon Air’s Stony Point Shopping Center.