Commercial Progress Report

Socially Speaking

by Lisa Hanchey

It's the newest concept in "socializing" in Lafayette - the Speakeatery. (Chef Marc Krampe, Jody Ferguson and Charlie Goodson)

Social Southern Table & Bar is set to open to the public any day now in the former Canton City Inn location at 3901 Johnston St. The restaurant/bar is the newest venture by Southern Hospitality Kitchens LLC, proprietors of Charley G's Restaurant.

Helmed by Charlie Goodson, founder of Charley G's, Jody Ferguson of Casa Olé and Marc Krampe of the McDonald's franchise family, Social features Southern comfort food, specially crafted libations and an extensive selection of wine, draught and bottled beer. The Speakeatery's insignia features a yellow bee - the most "social" of all insects. "The Speakeatery is a phrase that we've coined for a place that has great food and great cocktails," Ferguson explains. "It can be at whatever level you want it to be. You can come in and have a social gathering tapas-style, or you can come in and have a traditional dinner."

Photo by Elizabeth Rose

Chef Marc Krampe, Jody Ferguson and Charlie Goodson

Krampe has been in the restaurant business since age 15, when he started working as a dishwasher at Casa Olé. After studying chemical engineering in college, he switched gears and returned to his true passion - food. "My family does it; it's in my blood," he says. He trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, Texas. During his 10 years in the city, he worked at several restaurants serving varied cuisine including French, Japanese, New American, Thai and Ethiopian. "The Ethiopian restaurant was one of my favorite places to work - all of the spices and flavors were so bright and amazing," he explains. "That's why I like this concept, the gastropub, if you will - you can take any cuisine and it fits."

The partners started working on the idea for an upscale gastropub over a year ago and came up with the Speakeatery concept. "It's just a culmination of everything we've seen in the restaurant industry," Goodson says. "Then, we looked for a void in the market. We've found that there are some great restaurants and bars in town, and we wanted to put the two together and have a bar that has great food."
Starting Sept. 15, Southwest Contractors LLC and Poché Prouet Associates totally "upcycled" the 4,600-square-foot space, obliterating all signs of its previous incarnations. The interior boasts cathedral ceilings laced with intricate wood beams, brick and rustic wood walls, comfy leather booths and casual high-top communal tables centered around a sleek bar. Dangling above the seating area are light fixtures fashioned from Mason jars and apple barrels. "I describe it as industrial meets Hays Town," Ferguson says. Outside are several tables for al fresco drinking and dining.

The menu will feature unique Speakeateries (appetizers), sammies (sandwiches), farmers' market greens (salads), flatbreads, supper plates, social fixins (sides) and pickins (lagniappe). An herb garden outside provides the fresh ingredients for cuisine and cocktails. Pickles and breads are made in-house, with the exception of the French bread, which comes from Poupart's. Plans are in the works to add house-made cured meats. Soups and flatbreads will change daily.

At the media preview, favorites at one table included the Krab Nachos, house-made crispy wonton chips topped with spicy mayo, avocado, tobiko and shredded crab; Boudin "Kolache," a boudin and white cheddar-stuffed sweet roll with caramelized apple and onion coulis, and smoked fried chicken. Specialty cocktails sipped were the Blackberry Bourbon Lemonade (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, house-made lemonade, blackberry puree, cardamom and sparkling wine), Creek Water (Beefeater Gin, house pressed lime juice, soda, simple syrup, cucumber and mint leaves) and Social Animal (cracklin-infused Deep Eddy Texas Vodka, house made Mary mix and a garnish of pickled okra, cracklin and cheddar cheese). Pastry chef Amy Salzman is still tweaking the dessert menu but offered a sampling of cherry-filled king cake topped with tri-color edible glitter, carrot cake with cornflake garnish and a Southern Russian - Captain Crunch-favored Kahlúa-spiked milk accompanied by homemade chocolate chip cookies for dipping.

Social will employ about 60 people, including sous chefs, bartenders and waitstaff.

Bill Schwantz is serving as chef de cuisine. After a few preview events, the business plans to open in the afternoons with a "social" happy hour, followed by evening dining. Eventually, the Speakeatery will offer lunches and a Sunday brunch. "We think that starting with nights will give us a better opportunity to be successful," Goodson explains. "People aren't in a hurry; they're out having some cocktails, and the pace is slower. So, we are going to work on our logistics and training at night, and then eventually open at lunch and on Sundays, seven days a week."