The Pleasures and Perils of New Restaurants

By Frank Whitman

Cheese platter at Greer Southern Table

It’s cool to be among the first to try a new restaurant. The opening buzz on social media, at work and around the neighborhood builds to a frenzy.  

But you might want to wait.

Restaurants are complicated organisms, and it takes a while for things to get in sync. The kitchen needs to find out what’s working and what’s not. Chefs and cooks need to find a groove where everyone knows the playbook of the daily kitchen game. Dining room staff need to learn the menu, build teamwork and master the beverage offerings while trying to avoid bumping into each other. Computers must be debugged, the sound level adjusted and the decor tweaked. All this while customers are expecting the best.  

Experienced operators know how crucial the first few weeks and months are and prepare in detail.  They know that first impressions are lasting.  Lines at the door, staff turnover, menu changes and supply shortages, are all a worry, but they keep on smiling and hustling. There are no do-overs. 

With Shrimp and Grits in mind, we ate at Greer Southern Table in Norwalk when they had only been open three weeks.  Rising to the challenge of a new kid in town, the restaurant pulled it off without a hitch.   

Greer Fredericks is an experienced restaurateur with lots of local contacts for staff and suppliers and an excellent reputation in the area. The Southern Table concept is a more sophisticated variation on

Fried chicken skins

restaurants she’s operated in the past (Peaches and Mama’s Boy in Norwalk).  The staff includes familiar faces that already know her style and method.

With another couple, Marsha and I headed back to dig deeper when the restaurant had a few months under its belt.  The “joint was jumping” with a full dining room, lively crowd at the bar and a full reservation book for the evening. 

Our dinner companions found the tempting menu to be unique in the area.  “There’s nothing else like this,” was their consensus. Greer’s definition of Southern food stretches from the Carolina coast to New Orleans. 

Southern Tapas (AKA small plates or large appetizers) invite tasting and sharing.  We couldn’t resist

Gumbo Ya-Ya

overdoing it with four choices plus a generous “Nosh” of cheese and crackers.

Pickled Deviled Eggs ($13) garnished with a bacon lardon and pickled okra are a tasty version of a southern staple. Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($12) were dressed up with a ginger-rum glaze.  I snuck in an order for Fried Chicken Skins ($12) with hot honey drizzle.  No one could resist the tasty but cholesterol-laden indulgence.  Cornmeal Crusted Oysters ($15) with ramp sauce was a winner. And, oh yes, that nosh of Cheese and Crackers ($18) included pimento cheese, Greer’s house-recipe highbrow spread plus toasted crusty bread and a generous fan of good old Ritz crackers. 

All this was washed down with a crisp, fresh rosé, although a beer from their extensive list might have been a more Southern choice. 

With a hunger for more of this good food but waning appetites, three of us opted to share the eight piece Signature Bucket of Chicken ($38).  Crunchy batter-crusted parts came with sweet and tender corn bread, honey butter, slaw and one side – collards for us. I went back to the tapas menu for the spicy andouille and tender shrimp of the Gumbo Ya-Ya ($15).  

We could have been tempted by the Deep Fried Peach, Warm Maple-Bacon donuts, Southern-classic Banana Pudding or Greer’s signature Coconut cake, but alas there was no appetite left. We’ll have to plan better next time. 

A neighbor told me about his experience trying to check out a new hot spot in Fairfield. After waiting in line, he was next up for a table when the host announced the dreaded news – there would be no more seating, nothing till tomorrow. 

Trying a new place is not without peril – worth it for some and too risky for others. Greer Southern Table has found its groove and is ready for you.