Southern Goods, the new restaurant from former Underbelly sous chef Lyle Bento and former Cottonwood/Liberty Station partner Charles Bishop, finally has its city-approved construction permits in hand. As the partners prep for a mid-April opening — Bishop wants to celebrate his April 17th birthday there — Bento has begun hiring the people who will help realize his vision for the restaurant's pan-Southern menu.
Towards that end, Bento has tapped another former Underbelly cook Patrick Feges to serve as his sous chef.
"I tried to do it on my own and realized I had no idea what the hell I was doing," Feges says. "....Obviously, Charles knows what the hell he’s doing."
Feges left Underbelly last year to work as a pitmaster and chef at Killen's Barbecue, but he tells CultureMap he's looking forward to getting back onto a line and refining his own style of barbecue. He'll leave Killen's at the end of March to join Bento full time.
Feges acknowledges that his original plan was to open his own barbecue joint after leaving Killen's, but he couldn't come to terms with a landlord on a potential space. "I tried to do it on my own and realized I had no idea what the hell I was doing," Feges says. "I teamed up with these guys. Obviously, Charles knows what the hell he’s doing."
Bishop and Bento have offered to help Feges realize his dream of having his own place, but, for now, the trio are focused on Southern Goods.
For Bento, bringing Feges on after their time at Underbelly was a natural fit. "The main thing is I trust him. I’ve seen the way he handles himself in the kitchen, and I see the way he wants to do the right thing. You don’t have to micromanage him."
Feges also supplements Bento's skills with a smoke element that the chef admits isn't part of skill set. "I don’t smoke stuff, but I wanted to have a barbecue aspect. Having him come on board, that’s just the perfect match," Bento says. "He complements me in a lot of spots that I’m not as good in, and I think I complement him in spots that he’s not as good in. That’s what builds a really good team."
Smoker on weekends
Bishop notes that traditional barbecue, whether inspired by Texas or other regions of the South, won't be on the every day menu, but Feges will bust out the smoker on weekends and for events. Beyond central Texas-style smoked brisket, Bento and Feges plan to use smoke elements in non-traditional ways. "We were talking about foie the other day. Adding that layer of flavor to things that I might not think of because I’m not a big smoke guy," Bento says.
As for the rest of the menu, Bento says it will sample broadly from Southern traditions old and new. Vietnamese-Cajun mashups could exist next to Tex-Mex or Mississippi-style tamales. The restaurant has also secured a club license to allow it to serve liquor in the dry part of the Heights.
As for the rest of the menu, Bento says it will sample broadly from Southern traditions old and new. Vietnamese-Cajun mashups could exist next to Tex-Mex or Mississippi-style tamales.
The chef prepared for Southern Goods' approach by traveling to celebrated restaurants throughout the South like Husk in Charleston and Hogs & Hominy in Memphis. "You look at what’s going on in the South right now. It’s so broad. It’s so fun. It’s one of the main reasons I wanted to do Southern Goods," Bento says.
"The menu will move when it needs to move," he adds later. "We’re going to have a few set things. We’ll always have a burger. We’ll do seasonal . . . but we really want to show different ingredients from across the South."
While Southern Goods may be more static than Underbelly's constantly evolving offerings, Feges notes that he and Bento are still capable of surprising people. "We might do some crazy stuff here and there, because there’s no one to tell Lyle no," he says with a laugh.
Already, Bento is using his newly acquired food truck for Ladybirds, the bar he and Bishop serve as operating partners for, to test dishes like a bone-in chicken fried steak. "It's a great option we have," Bishop says, without getting too specific about how closely the dishes served on the truck will resemble their final versions at Southern Goods.
"My vision for the food is comfortable food that people can come eat every day, but if you have a special event and you want to come eat, (then) come," Bento says.
"It’s just going to be fun food."