Chef Joey Ward is getting close to finally opening Southern Belle and Georgia Boy, his dual restaurant-cocktail bar and ticketed chefs counter speakeasy. The former Gunshow executive chef hopes to open by November at the Plaza Theatre complex on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Poncey-Highland.
People enter both spots through Southern Belle, the relaxed, small plates restaurant and bar named for Ward’s wife, Emily, an attorney and a former Miss Georgia.
According to Ward, the restaurant’s interior seats 45 people and has an “Old World, sitting room feel,” with original brick and exposed wood rafters, salon-style groupings of mix-matched antique frames Ward sourced himself, tufted furniture, and low-level coffee tables, all anchored by a central service bar.
A back patio accommodates an additional 40 people, and the team plans to utilize the space for industry-focused “Sunday Fundays,” with live music, food grilled on a Big Green Egg, and more.
Ward and his general manager and sommelier, Cate Hatch, teamed up with Ticonderoga Club owners and cocktail consultants Greg Best and Paul Calvert to develop a list of 12 drinks to pair with a rotating menu of nearly a dozen small plates. The menu at Southern Belle features dishes that include Southern and seasonal ingredients, like a goat’s milk feta cheese from Decimal Place Farm in Conley, Georgia, served with textures of roasted pumpkin.
In keeping with Southern Belle’s moniker and aesthetic, cocktails spotlight Southern distillers and spirits. A specialty frozen drink, for instance, incorporates East Pole coffee-infused ASW whiskey. Both the coffee roastery and whiskey distillery are based in Atlanta. Hatch says to also expect classic cocktails such as the Aviation and Manhattan as well as original creations like highballs and sours on Southern Belle’s beverage menu.
Hatch, who worked with Best and Calvert while managing H&F Bottle Shop in Buckhead, says she “really wanted to collaborate with people executing cocktails at their level” in order to develop a “complex and well executed cocktail program” for Southern Belle.
As for wine, Hatch plans to offer no more than ten bottles by the glass, emphasizing small natural, organic, and biodynamic wine producers.
“Like the food menu, our wine list will change frequently, as a lot of these small, family producers only make limited runs of certain vintages and varietals,” Hatch says. A selection of Southern craft beers rounds out the beverage menu at Southern Belle.
With no visible signage, Georgia Boy can only be accessed via Southern Belle. Wednesday through Saturday, the chefs counter speakeasy offers four seatings of up to eight patrons. People are first greeted in a library-like waiting area between the two spaces, and then ushered into the sleek, minimalist Georgia Boy consisting of just four two-top tables. Hatch pairs each of the ten to 15 courses created by Ward with everything from sake and cider to pétillant-naturel wines.
Despite being reservation-only and the formalities, Ward wants to keep the mood during the two-hour meal at Georgia Boy casual and loose, beginning with a welcome toast.
“At Georgia Boy, we’ll be focusing on local ingredients and modern techniques. It will be a theatrical, interactive experiences, with cooks engaging with the guests,” explains Ward. “I really wanted to continue that dialogue and experience so central to Gunshow.”
1043 Ponce De Leon Avenue NE, Atlanta. southernbelleatlanta.com.