Our beef-boiling Yankee town has come a long way with its southern cuisine. But North Carolina native Jason Cheek goes beyond the conventional canon, rattling off the sort of nuanced, modern riffs they’re rocking right this second in Charleston and Atlanta. Think: whole grilled trout nestled in stewed fregula. Short-rib meatloaf dolled up with bone marrow and bracing piperade. And a tea-brined, thyme-scented fried chicken—craggy and orange-rust in color—we can’t stop clucking about.
Regulars at Southern Proper know that the cocktail menu changes every few weeks. “I get so bored,” jokes beverage director Katie Gilroy. “After I make the same cocktail 100 times, I’m like, ‘It’s time.’ ” As the fried chicken joint’s one-year anniversary rolls around, the bar team’s playing some of the greatest hits—including this delicate tequila drink, featuring a herbaceous anise-honey liqueur that will even have black licorice haters getting on board.
“This is the best pimento cheese I’ve ever had,” declares a Georgia native, swiping a popover through a smear of zingy orange paste. In an improbable farmhouse-style room in the South End, festooned with antique lamps and vibrating with classic rock, chef Jason Cheek (Coppa, Toro) pays homage to his North Carolina childhood. His food makes even hardened Northerners swoon: smoky shrimp and grits, airy little biscuits rich with buttermilk, and greaseless heaps of tangy fried chicken, all enlivened by stiff rye cocktails and a happy staff.
The thrill here is not just that Southern cuisine has finally come to the South End, but that the food is so outstanding. Chef and owner Jason Cheek, nostalgic for his North Carolina upbringing, has concocted a tranquilizing menu of decadent shared table eats. The crunchy, juicy fried chicken is a no-brainer -- when you walk in, it seems every table already has a plate of it -- as are the baby back ribs, best accompanied by the extra-rich mac & cheese.
Opening his own place after years as a mercenary chef, North Carolina native Jason Cheek brings Southern cooking to a South End setting reminiscent of the tobacco barns of his youth. In addition to a strong cocktail and beer program, Southern Proper proffers an array of elevated picnic foods like deviled eggs and pork rinds as well as quality slow-smoked barbecue. But the jewel here is Cheek’s spectacular, juicy fried chicken, with its medium-thick, crisp batter and mild or hot seasoning.
When chef Jason Cheek opened Southern Proper this year, he sought to bring a taste of his native North Carolina to Boston. Step inside the South End restaurant, and you’ll see he’s done just that: The eatery takes design cues from Cheek’s grandmother’s living room, serving up comfort food on mismatched plates. The kitchen, meanwhile, cranks out platters of tender fried chicken, not to mention flaky popovers and out-of-this-world homemade pickles.
You can tell a lot about a neighborhood by its newer restaurants. When a Seaport tower goes up, its first floor gets some national chain outlet that’s soullessly indistinguishable from hundreds of convention-center-adjacent restaurants in Houston or Phoenix. By contrast, new South End buildings tend to be anchored by locally owned spots like Bar Mezzana and Area Four. Add newcomer Southern Proper to this list, in which chef/owner Jason Cheek (ex-Little Donkey, Coppa) showcases his native North Carolina’s low country cuisine with fried chicken, barbecue, hushpuppies, grits and collards.
Brunch officially begins this Sunday at chef Jason Cheek’s new Southern Proper. Find regular menu favorites, like shrimp and grits, pimento cheese and popovers, and chicken and waffles on weekend mornings, plus new dishes including egg plates with pimento hollandaise, house ham, and an English muffin; and a waffle-wich with bacon, eggs, cheese, and avocado sauce.
More often than not, tipsters, readers, and friends and family of Eater have one question: Where should I eat right now?Restaurant obsessives want to know what's new, what's hot, and where to get the latest ceviche or fried chicken or bowl of ramen.
After working under Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette for many years, chef Jason Cheek struck out on his own last month by opening this South End restaurant inspired by his North Carolina roots. You’ll find lots of smoked meats and traditional sides on the menu, but Cheek’s meticulously prepared fried chicken (1)—brined in Lipton tea, pressure-cooked, and garnished with lemon and thyme—has instantly become his signature dish. “It’s something I have a pretty deep passion for,” he says.
Full and noisy, but not unpleasantly so, on a chilly Saturday in February. A yellow rooster sign welcomes guests as they enter what looks like a high-beamed farmhouse — and so does a blast of music. If you’re a classic rock fan, you have found Valhalla: munch hushpuppies and tear apart fried chicken to the tunes of Steely Dan and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Antique lamps and plants dangle from the ceiling, and ornate dishes are mounted on the pine walls. While this approach could call to mind grandma’s attic in a more claustrophobic setting, the space is big enough that it’s just an eccentric design quirk, stuff to stare at while waiting for rye. A healthy cross-section of the South End is here: young dudes on a date, a happy toddler on someone’s lap munching a biscuit, a swarm of ex-pat thirty-somethings in from the suburbs, marveling over their ace parking space.
Similarly stylish, albeit with a very different vibe, is nearby Southern Proper, opening its doors tomorrow on the ground floor of the Girard, a South End luxury apartment building. Chef-owner Jason Cheek, who grew up in North Carolina and comes from a long line of tobacco farmers, says he based his restaurant’s look on a “tobacco barn my grandmother would have decorated.” Light pinewood stretches up to vaulted ceilings, and the airy space — illuminated by big walls filled with windows — is adorned with antiques, such as tin reclaimed from an old movie theater that is used to wrap the bar front.
Get hungry for fried chicken: Southern Proper debuts tonight in the South End (600 Harrison Ave., Boston). “It’ll be heavily oriented toward chicken and beer,” chef-owner Jason Cheek (Toro, KO Prime) previously told Eater, and the space looks like “a tobacco barn [his] grandmother invaded.” To start, Southern Proper is open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, but stay tuned for lunch service and Sunday brunch, which are slated to begin in the spring.
The South End gets some new Southern hospitality tonight. Chef Jason Cheek, a North Carolina native and alum of Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette’s restaurants, debuts Southern Proper on Thursday, March 1.
On March 1, Southern cuisine comes to Boston's South End — courtesy of Southern Proper, a celebrated local chef's return to his culinary roots. Though it inhabits the ground floor of the Girard, a new luxury apartment building, there's a down-home feel to this delightful newcomer, where the rustic-refined spins on comfort eats, clever cocktails and laid-back vibe come together to create some genuine-feeling Southern hospitality. Here's what to know before you mosey on over.
Chef Jason Cheek—formerly of Toro and KO Prime—is bringing his Southern roots to the South End. Cheek, who was born and raised in North Carolina, will serve authentic low country cuisine when his first solo venture, Southern Proper, opens its doors on March 1.
Justin Winters, the chef de cuisine at Cinquecento, said that he’s looking forward to trying out Southern Proper, a South End spot with a thoroughly Southern menu slated to debut March 1. Chef Jason Cheek, a North Carolina native, told Eater Boston that the menu will be “heavily oriented toward chicken and beer.” Winter said he’s excited for some authentic Southern cuisine.
Chef Jason Cheek, alum of lauded nearby hot spot Toro, culled inspiration from his North Carolina upbringing for Southern Proper, opening March 1 at 50 Malden St. on the ground floor of The Girard, a new luxury apartment building. Cheek is steering clear of the kitschy vibes and barbecue focus that characterizes most Yankee interpretations of American South cuisine, opting for less overexposed, Low country-oriented fare such as Carolina-style seafood, pig’s heads and chicken liver parfait, washed down with cool brown spirits
Openings: Southern food comes to the South End with Southern Proper, opening on March 1 (600 Harrison Ave. at Union Park Street) with executive chef Jason Cheek (Toro, Coppa, Little Donkey, Merrill & Co.) in the kitchen. Cheek grew up in North Carolina. He says he wants to “serve stuff people might not be familiar with,” such as chicken pilau, a favorite version of chicken and rice.
Southern Proper’s chef and proprietor Jason Cheek wants his restaurant to be a haven, a place where people can come after work and feel comfortable — a place where people can take a deep breath and relax.