Southern Table, the new restaurant concept by Margie Raimondo of Raimondo Winery, is now open for business. The small bistro takes over for Kent Walker Artisan Cheese on Cross St., which Raimondo purchased back in April. Southern Table continues Kent Walker’s wholesale cheese business and dine-in eatery, while adding a new level of refinement to the dining room and a more ambitious food menu.
Before we discuss the menu, we have to talk about the atmosphere. Raimondo and her team have hit a home run, designing a simple, gorgeous tasting room. Natural wood accents the green and white palate, and an elegant, minimal touch informs the décor all around. The patio has also been upgraded, with more seating and more plants and flowers that lend to a peaceful experience just blocks from the state Capitol. This instantly is one of my favorite dining rooms in the city; patrons of Kent Walker or Diamond Bear before will hardly recognize the place.
“I wanted to create something that was homey, that you feel like you’re in my house or my backyard on a Sunday afternoon, and we’re just having a good time as friends,” said Raimondo. “And I feel like I did that. From the outside to the inside, I feel like that’s what we’ve been able to achieve.”
While Southern Table is open right now, Raimondo has set Sept. 20 as the official grand opening day for the business. She plans to use the interim time to further solidify Southern Table’s tasting room menu, which is broken into board, bruschettas and bites. Right now, the focus is on getting the boards just right; Southern Table will introduce the bruschettas and entrees after that. I got to sample the charcuterie board and left impressed, especially with the housemade mustard, preserves and cheeses. I also got a taste of the Cucumber Melon Tartare, a fun blend of cantaloupe, cucumber and feta cheese. Raimondo is hoping her customers will let her know what works and what doesn’t.
“My expectation is for people to come in and try the food and give me their feedback, because we want to know,” said Raimondo. “We want to know if it’s hitting the mark. This is a different concept for Little Rock, so we really want to hear from our customers. They’re helping us shape the direction we’re going in.”
Of course, Southern Table features Raimondo’s own wines, but it also has a healthy collection of regional and national wine brands on hand. And the only beers Southern Table is stocking are Arkansas brands, showing Raimondo’s dedication to supporting local craft brew. And there is plenty to take home. Southern Table’s cheese is of course for sale, but the company has also developed a line of oils, vinegars, olives, preserves and other foodstuffs you can take home. Most of this is used in Southern Table’s dishes, meaning if you try it and love it, you can get it to go.
“We’re trying to bring it back to the days when we enjoyed food,” said Raimondo. “When we sat down as a friend or family, and sat down and enjoyed some food. We’re in such a rush all the time, we don’t really get to do that anymore.”
Southern Table is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. For an interactive look at Southern Table, check out our 360 First Look on our Facebook page.