Newport RE today announces that Liz & Leon’s, a new concept by Atlanta chef Bella Jones, will join the lineup of restaurants and retail on the revived Historic Hotel Row in South Downtown, targeting a fall 2023 opening.
“Liz & Leon’s is a culinary love letter to my grandparents, especially my grandmother, Elizabeth,” says chef Jones. “Everything I know about family, love, tradition, and African American food comes from her, and the restaurant will have centuries of my ancestors’ stories wrapped up in every dish.”
With a mission to tell the stories of the African diaspora through elevated and unique flavor profiles, Liz & Leon’s will offer top-notch service combined with a comfortable, homey atmosphere, and a focus on ingredients that are carefully and sustainably sourced. At the restaurant, Jones aims to bring a fresh perspective to the phrase ‘soul food’ – honoring Black cuisine and educating guests about its importance, history and cultural significance.
In an exclusive email sent to What Now Atlanta, Chef Jones teased a few of the dishes folks can expect, as well as the stories behind them;
“One of our signature dishes is a dish called Apple Sauce & Chicken Fried which is a dish that is inspired by a poem from a black poet named Effie Waller Smith written in I believe 1906 by the same name “Apple Sauce & Chicken Fried.” In this poem Ms. Smith is reminiscing on how the food was changing after the enslaved were emancipated & she just missed her mothers Fried Chicken & Apple sauce.
Another Dish that we are doing on our starters & soups menu is first Potlikker Soup. ‘Potlikker’ is what we refer as the juice created when cooking a pot of collard greens or any other green significant to African American food. Collard greens were one of the only crops the Enslaved were allowed to grow in their own gardens outside of the rations that they were given. They would cook these greens with herbs, garlic, fatback, and specific seasonings and the nutrients that boiled out created an elixir that was a healing agent for their bodies and also provided hydration when there wasn’t much to eat. We are turning the coveted ‘PotLikker’ into a soup.”
Chef Jones details one more dish, the Whiskey Glazed Porkbelly & Watermelon, explaining that, “This appetizer celebrates black peoples preparation and embracing of pork, which is one of the most important proteins in African American food. It also celebrates watermelon which is one of the crop seeds brought to America by the enslaved. There would be no watermelon without them. This dish is seared pork belly, watermelon, charred corn and heirloom tomato salsa, watermelon & whiskey glaze over a mint basil cream.”
Of the entire menu, Jones says, “It’s my mission to reveal stories of victory and triumph through food,” adding, “These stories focus on how, even when stripped from their homeland, the enslaved created a cuisine that came to be the most recognizable food in America.”
A secret bar (also by Jones) dubbed Sweet Gigi’s will operate downstairs, while Liz & Leon’s holds the main floor, and is connected to a shared terrace. Both concepts join a lineup of exciting retail and restaurants opening on Historic Hotel Row in 2023: TydeTate Kitchen, Spiller Park, Pizza Clementine, Thirteenth Floor and @Twelve80, among other to-be-announced tenants. Hotel Row was once an epicenter of travel, business, tourism and restaurants within the city, and Newport’s transformation of the block aims to bring life back into the neighborhood, honoring the buildings’ pasts by transforming them into walkable, grab-and-go food stores, full service restaurants and bars, boutique shops and creative office space – similar to what would have been open on Hotel Row during its prime in the early 1900s.
“It’s an honor that Chef Bella has chosen Hotel Row as the home for Liz & Leon’s – an incredibly important, culturally relevant project,” says April Stammel, senior VP of Newport. “She has big plans, and we are proud to have her as a founding neighbor in South Downtown. I can’t wait to enjoy – and learn from – her cooking alongside the rest of the city.”
On choosing Historic Hotel Row as the future home for her restaurant, chef Jones shares, “With the mission of Liz & Leon’s and the importance of telling the story of African American foodways, I wanted a location that felt like it had history wrapped in its walls – but also reminded me of walking into my grandmother’s home. When I first entered the space at 231 Mitchell, I could feel the history – and to say that we are in a building that’s over a century old is my favorite part. As a history buff, choosing South Downtown and Hotel Row was a no-brainer.”
Liz & Leon’s will span nearly 3,000 square feet at 231 Mitchell Street plus an additional 2,800+ square feet of terrace level space. The JLL Brokerage/Leasing team, led by Director of Retail Agency Leasing Coleman Morris, is facilitating retail leasing efforts for the project in partnership with Newport.
This article was updated on Mar 1, 2023 to include exclusive menu highlights shared with What Now Atlanta.