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.
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.
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.
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.