At some point this summer you will be able to sit on a rooftop on 21st St. in Ghent eating fried oysters, Downtown glowing behind you, at a restaurant/bar developed and conceived by the guys who brought you Bardo, Still, and Public House.
"There's nothing like this in Southeast Virginia," said Claus Ihlemann, co-owner of the building. "You would have to travel to Charlottesville or DC to find anything remotely similar to it."
They're calling it Supper. The idea is for it to feel less like a restaurant, and more like your Southern gramma Erlene's house.
"The feel we're going for is less masculine than Public House and Still, and certainly more feminine," said Eric Stevens, half of the duo, along with Karl Dornemann, who operate an outsized proportion of the better restaurants in the area. "We've moved from those dark woods to the off-white painted walls, greens, slightly more floral prints with the decor."
Along with Stove in P-town and Chow--which Eric and Supper's executive chef, Edward Storey, spoke very highly of--this will be one of the few true Southern dining establishments here in our little metro south of the Mason–Dixon line.
"I grew up in South Georgia," said Storey, who is currently the executive chef at Bardo. "Our menu feels like home. It feels like sitting around the dinner table on Sunday night and talking about everything. I grew up a farm. Everybody goes to church together then has dinner together. It reminds me of my childhood. It's comfort food. It just warms your soul."
Think boiled peanuts. Think braised pork belly. Think fried oysters. Think black-eyed peas, collared greens and cornbread. Think crab Norfolk.
"One of the things we have done is try to look back at some cultural dishes here locally," said Stevens. "Trying to reach back and update the classics. We try to do most things in a fun, slightly offbeat way, and we're trying to bring that here as well."
Being a northerner myself (damn Yankee, I know), I'll admit that I was disappointed when I moved here to not feel a more pervasive Southern culture, starting with the food. "I have absolutely no idea why there's not more food like this in Hampton Roads," said Storey. "We're still in the South. I can't even fathom why." I have a feeling that there's hunger in the market for not just Chow and Supper, but even more Southern-styled eateries.
But let's be real here. The food will be good--Karl, Eric, and Edward know what they're doing. The real star, though, will be the 3,000-square-foot rooftop.
"We've been trying to do this for a while but this is the first opportunity to do it in a reasonable budget," said Stevens of the rooftop, which will hold 110 for seating, and 25 at the bar.
There are some nice places to eat outside around Norfolk--Luna Maya comes to mind--but we don't have anything like this. Belmont's deck is a bit fire escapey. Sky Bar at the Oceanfront is called Sky Bar---and while it's pretty rad, it's not all that chill. (It's called Sky Bar.) Supper is going to be a game changer for the vibe around Ghent and greater Norfolk.
"People think we're crazy to open up there restaurants in Ghent," said Stevens. "People are always asking us when we're going to the Beach, and the answer is we'd probably open up two more restaurants in Ghent rather than do that. We want to eat and have fun where we live. It's not about world domination. It's about making the neighborhood where you live somewhere you want to be, and other people want to be."