Adam Bailey wants it all to be perfect.
The food, of course, and the drinks too, but also the warmly lit space and spotless hardwood floors, the windows looking onto Broad Street, the bar chairs angled just so, the bottles on the shelf lined up like a marching band, everything down to the little hand-thrown flower pots sitting on every table.
“It’s the details,” he said late last week, while fussing with the arrangement of the flowers on the bar.
Because he knows much of Monroe has been waiting eagerly for South on Broad, Bailey’s refined Southern cuisine spot, to open. And as of yesterday, it has.
When he first announced his menu on Facebook last year, it racked up 28,000 engagements in an evening. When he ran a ticketed soft opening – three lunches for 50 people each – the spots filled up in 30 minutes. When he did the same for dinner, it only took 15.
Even with the lights off and only a handful of staff inside, people have still been wandering in off the street asking for a table for two or wondering when it will open for real.
That anticipation, however, presents its own challenges.
“Most places get a grace period of a few weeks or so because you don’t have a reputation. I don’t get to grow up in the first few weeks,” Bailey said.
“So there’s lots of pressure to make it perfect right from the get-go.”
And so, he’s trying to get all those details just right.
But even getting to this point is an accomplishment. Remodeling the restaurant, which used to be Wild West BBQ, has been a Herculean task.
Contractors have had to put in entirely new plumbing, refinish the floors, install all new kitchen appliances, build wheelchair ramps, construct a patio and a hundred other things.
“It’s been difficult getting a building this old up to current codes while still maintaining it’s historic integrity,” Bailey said.
Plus, Bailey is a chef. He’d never managed a construction project before.
But it got done, and the state awarded South on Broad its official Certificate of Occupancy at the end of May. There are times when Bailey still can’t believe it.
“It’s still sinking in. Like...we did this,” he said.
As for the food, Bailey said it’s simple, mostly. Pork chops. Hanger steak. Buttermilk fried chicken. Things that most people have eaten, but not made as well as Bailey hopes to make them, at least not in Monroe.
“We’re trying to bring a different culture and experience that this town doesn’t have yet,” he said.
That goes for more than just food. Bailey said he’s hoping to do what all great restaurants aspire to do: create a refuge from the hustle and stress of the outside world. There are no outlets in the walls. A TV might come on day, but only to play Georgia football. The food will arrive, but the kitchen will take its time to prepare it.
“...It’s about slowing down. We’re such a fast-paced society, everything is so fast-paced,” Bailey said.
“I want people to sit and have a glass of wine or two...I want you to come in a stay a while.”