The Southern: not just another music hall

news-gemsmcravenThe Southern's Andy Gems and Lauren McRaven hope the music hall will also be known for its cuisine.

Back in 2005, when Lauren McRaven opened The Flat on Water Street, she quipped that she might not have opened the little crªperie if she’d known beforehand how difficult it was going to be. Nearly fours years later, with The Flat having become a Water Street landmark, crepe lovers can be glad that no one warned her. Fans of new music venue The Southern should be glad as well, as McRaven is behind the “Caf©” in the joint’s tag line “Caf© and Music Hall.” Initially, McRaven was hired by the owners of Gravity Lounge to head up the kitchen, but when Gravity closed, she took over the space with Andy Gems.

Those early worries about taking on too much seem to have subsided for McRaven, as she says the new gig at The Southern has been a “step up” from The Flat, which she’ll continue to run. “It’s been nice to branch out a little bit,” she says.

McRaven also has ambitions to turn The Southern’s caf© into a real Downtown restaurant destination, not just a food option during music shows. As she points out, in addition to a late night show menu for concert goers, folks can also eat at the caf© without buying a ticket to a show. The caf© is open from 11am to 3pm Tuesday through Sunday, with a brunch on Saturday and Sunday that features live music.

The biggest challenge now, says McRaven, is changing the public’s preconceptions about the venue.

“People have the Gravity Lounge thing stuck in their head,” she says.

Oh, yes, the food. In keeping with the theme of the name, McRaven says her menu has a definite “southern twist.” Her oven fried chicken biscuits and open-faced meatloaf sandwich are a hit, she says. So is a rather creative veggie option called a black-eyed pea burger. She’s also offering sausage rolls with locally-produced links, a smoked gouda-baked mac and cheese, and French toast and tasty sausage gravy and biscuits for brunch.