First Look: Juniper Serves Southern Cuisine in the Central West End

       Juniper's chicken and waffles dish with pickled watermelon rind. | Mabel Suen
       Juniper's chicken and waffles dish with pickled watermelon rind. | Mabel Suen

As reported earlier this month, local pop-up restaurant proprietor John Perkins decided to settle down with a concept that's made to last. On October 16 his latest creation, Juniper: A Southern Table & Bar (360 North Boyle Avenue; 314-520-6750), opened in the Central West End. Gut Check stopped in for dinner during opening weekend to see what Southern-style eats he dreamed up for the menu.

See also: Juniper Opens October 16; Pop-Up Impresario John Perkins is Ready to Settle Down

Juniper's interior takes a minimalist approach. Exposed brick, long wooden tables and candlelight offer warmth to the dining room, while a couple of somewhat drab paintings displaying the art period of American realism adorn the walls. Three retro refrigerators sit behind the bar.

Juniper's food is rustic and channels big Southern flavor with delicate modern finishes. The chicken and waffles, for instance, take a classic Southern dish and ups the ante with an extraordinarily crispy, flavorful batter and a garnish of pickled watermelon rind. Other dishes include a pork belly pork-n-beans and a trout entree with crab, fennel, watercress, pecan romanesco and Carolina Gold rice purloo.

       In the Central West End. | Mabel Suen
       In the Central West End. | Mabel Suen

The concise drink menu contains six beers, wine by the glass and two cocktails: the "Presbyterian," with bourbon, ginger and lemon; and the "Mississippi Punch" with rye, rum, cognac, lemon, sugar and angostura bitters.

Smaller bites include fresh-baked breads like buttermilk biscuits and hushpuppies ($5 for two or $8 for four), a country ham flight ($12) and smoked deviled eggs ($2). A variety of salads include Brussels sprouts with cape beans and apple butter ($8) as well as a cauliflower gratin with white cheddar and pecans ($8).

To get the real Southern meal deal, check the end of the menu for familiar sides ($4 to $6) such as grits, collards, pickled beets and fried okra. For dessert, try buttermilk salted-caramel ice cream ($3), or for a $2 upcharge, add a scoop to baked options such as sweet-potato pie ($6).

Juniper is currently open for dinner service on Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 10 p.m. For more info, head to Juniper's website and follow it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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