Southern Crescent to open in C’ville’s hottest foodie ’hood and more local restaurant news

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It won’t be called Southern Crescent, but Ian Day and Lucinda Ewell’s long-planned restaurant on Hinton Avenue is finally nearing an opening date. Photo: Amy Jackson It won’t be called Southern Crescent, but Ian Day and Lucinda Ewell’s long-planned restaurant on Hinton Avenue is finally nearing an opening date. Photo: Amy Jackson

Belmont blowup

Southern Crescent, a restaurant Lucinda Ewell and her husband Ian Day first envisioned opening out of their home in 2009, will never open on Hinton Avenue in Belmont. But that’s because the couple will be changing the name by the time it starts welcoming diners by early September.

The as-yet-to -be-named new restaurant will feature Louisiana coastal, Cajun-creole grub that’s also influenced by the food of the Caribbean. Day was careful to point out there are differences in Cajun and creole cuisine, and the restaurant will look to honor them both.

Ewell, who grew up in New Orleans and was first exposed to the food biz in her grandfather’s North Carolina restaurant, said her menu will feature classics like gumbo, po’ boys, barbecued shrimp, stuffed artichokes and beignets along with more outside-the-box dishes and specials. “We expect to have things on the menu everywhere from fine dining to casual,” she says. Ewell says she has experience cooking for several restaurants and a catering business the family owned in the Baltimore area, but she won’t be on the line every night at the new joint.

Construction on the space at 814 Hinton, just several doors down from Belmont favorites The Local and Tavola, is currently underway. Ewell said the last major projects before opening will be installing kitchen equipment, building the bar and completing the dining room.

“It’s been a long process turning a house where four people sleep into a place where people can dine,” Ewell says. “We’re trying to keep the integrity of the 1923 Victorian house while changing it into a restaurant, which is a lot of effort. It’s been a labor of love.”

Ewell and Day successfully had their residence rezoned as commercial back in 2009 when they hatched their plan, but a family issue and flooding at their Annapolis home set them back considerably. Ewell says “the city’s been great” throughout the process, and the restaurant-to-be-named-shortly is fully permitted and ready to roll when the space is finished in the coming weeks.

The space, certainly, is a prize. Built in the mold of a New Orleans Garden District home and remodeled with the help of restaurant architecture specialist Greg Jackson, it features a brick patio (hand laid by Ewell herself), wooden swing, rustic two-storey interior, French Quarter-esque balcony and backyard-cum-picnic and play area that Ewell envisions housing a bocce court and ping pong.

Later juncture for Junction

Junction, the higher-end Tex-Mex joint that’ll be the new home to acclaimed chef Melissa Close-Hart, won’t open for another six to eight months, but owner Adam Frazier is philosophical about the delay.

“It won’t be the first restaurant not to open on time,” he says during a recent walk-through of the under-construction dining room.

Frazier says the delay has been due to the city’s sluggish site-plan approval process, which requires most new restaurants to have a parking lot that’s sized in line with its planned square footage. And with a restaurant the size of Junction, that’s nothing to sneeze at. While Frazier won’t say for sure how many seats the space will eventually have, it features two full floors of dining space along with balcony seating and a planned garden patio. Some of the structure may be reserved for private events, Frazier said.

The recent walkthrough revealed the current under-roof square footage is coming together, with the flooring finished and the bar constructed. Frazier’s also purchased his kitchen equipment, but he doesn’t yet have a place to put it. The kitchen is being planned as an addition that will be built onto the back of the structure.

Lampo “expanding”

Belmont’s Neapolitan pizza powerhouse Lampo will also be adding several seats in the coming weeks, though the number will shrink back down when the weather turns cold. The ’za and small plates joint expects to have its 18-20 seat patio open in July, effectively doubling its capacity for hungry diners.

The outdoor seating’s been in the works since Lampo opened at the start of 2015, but it was delayed slightly by a minor lease disagreement. There was “no real trouble, just logistical stuff with the neighbor,” owner Loren Mendosa says. “It’s all resolved now, and we’ll be opening the patio within a few weeks.”

The resolution comes none too soon, considering diners are almost assured a wait at the tiny space aside the Belmont bridge. The new seating will comprise several tables on the north side of the building and two bistro tables out front, Mendosa says. Get ’em while it’s hot out, C’ville.