For the residents of German Village, the decades-old Easy Street Cafe filled a niche—somewhere between the (relatively) upscale environment of Barcelona and the visitor’s guide dive vibe of The Thurman Cafe, there was Easy Street. Patrons could pop in for a quick lunch or a sit-down dinner and enjoy bar fare while grabbing a beer and watching a game, or savoring signature Greek dishes like Saganaki (Greek goat cheese) flambé or lemon orzo soup.
The owners of Easy Street have moved on to focus on their sister restaurant, Red Brick Tap & Grill, where the focus is squarely on the neighborhood sports bar experience.
In its place now stands South Village Grille, the newest addition to restaurateur George Tanchevski’s lineup of establishments that includes Aladdin’s, Old Skool, and all the Local Cantinas. But the Grille seems to be a new motivation for Tanchevski: remain familial and accessible while ascending to a new level of culinary sophistication. In that aim, SVG is a rousing success.
It’s a small space—room for maybe 50 at most—yet it doesn’t feel at all cramped. It’s a soothing, muted décor that is at once sophisticated and cozy. It exemplifies German Village, actually, in that it feels decidedly grown-up while not being intimidating.
“We want everyone to feel comfortable here,” said Josh Wiest, the executive chef. “People should treat South Village [Grille] as their go-to neighborhood spot.”
Go-to neighborhood spots are often on the louder side, both in ambience and character, where South Village Grille has many elements of a destination restaurant: a tight, professional menu, a scratch bar, bistro seating. Yet despite the thoughtful style of the menu and the space, there’s something pleasantly home-y about it all. (Being on the same block as German Village Coffee Haus may have something to do with that.)
I recently sidled up to the bar a half-hour from closing and took things in. I was late arriving and shabbily dressed, but I was greeted and served warmly nonetheless. I watched Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. chinwag on the lone television perched discreetly in a small corner, angled toward the back of the restaurant. I watched a beautiful burger and bowl of gorgeous, rich pasta carbonara with pancetta and an egg yolk make its way to the couple to my right as the man to my left finished up his steak frites. I’m intrigued.
Receiving recommendations for the meatball starter, the sausage pizza, and the halibut (with radicchio, asparagus, and a lemon caper crème fraîche) I settled on the pizza and an order of the chicken wings. What can I say—I was feeling cazh.
Wiest explained the menu as “chef-driven,” which was clear enough at first glance, but elaborated further.
“Everything is made in-house from scratch, including the desserts. And it’s [all] seasonal so we can serve ingredients when they’re at their best.”
The pizza was balanced, neither too saucy nor too cheesy. Fontina-based with a lightly spiced sausage and candied jalapeños, it was a recommendation well-received. The chipotle-glazed confit wings were cooked perfectly: crispy exterior, juicy meat that pulls away clean from the bone, and crunchy, crackly cartilage at the ends (if you’re into that sort of thing, as I am). They were accompanied by a peach salsa—a cool compliment to the glaze.
You can tell when pizza and wings are just pizza and wings, and you can tell when they’ve been taken a step above. It bodes well for the rest of the menu, which I’ll be back to sample soon enough. The house burger, a short rib grind topped with bacon, white cheddar, and a pepper jam; the tomahawk pork chop with stone ground grits and tomatillo red onion slaw; the scallop entrée with house gnocchi, shiitakes, and Calabrian chile vinaigrette.
Even the desserts—beignets, warm chocolate chip cookies, strawberry shortcake—have promise: simple, sure, but all phenomenal when done well. When the executive chef’s wife is a pastry chef herself, it’s fair to have high hopes.
It’s high praise for South Village; date night or family night (or just solo shorts-and-t-shirt night), the Grille is an easy win for all.
South Village Grille
197 Thurman Ave.