Restaurants that are more than just a place to get food

Ever have a hard time picking a new restaurant to try? Feel like every new place is “new American” or “food truck inspired” or some other combination of well-worn descriptors? Well then please allow the Southern Weekend to help you break up your culinary monotony.

These restaurants presented here are more than tables and chairs and ovens and servers. They are ingenious ways to pass the time. They’re convenient destinations to help get you on your way. They are fresh takes on the restaurant format. They’re even actual works of art.

So sit back, enjoy the ride, and let The Southern Weekend show you how a restaurant can be more than a restaurant.

Brewery Bhavana in Raleigh, NC

The better question is… what ISN’T Brewery Bhavana. It’s a brewery. It’s a book store. It’s a flower shop. It’s a dim sum restaurant. And that’s all before you check out their sister restaurant, Bida Manda, next door. We’re confident in declaring this one of the most unique food destinations in the South. This giant space is the end result of a collaboration between nearly twenty people—restaurant managers, brewers, chefs, florists—the list goes on and on. But don’t get overwhelmed, it just means every single aspect of this beautiful space has been considered and approved by an expert. You can just rest easy and enjoy a stool at the massive bar or a seat in the cozy café.

Harvey Washbangers in College Station, Texas

Never underestimate college student’s ability to incorporate beer into a monotonous activity. Harvey Washbangers is practically on the Texas A&M campus and offers older students a chance to get two types of suds in—soap and beer foam. That’s right, this bar has a laundromat in it. Washbangers has 80 coin-operated washers and dryers and a hand lighting system in the dining room to let you know when your clothes are done. You can even drop your clothes off with the professionals here for a full wash, dry, and fold if you really need to study for that midterm on Thursday.


Auto Spa Bistro in Atlanta, GA

Have you ever bemoaned the lukewarm coffee and poor vending machine selection at your local carwash? Well then Atlanta has the place for you. Auto Spa Detail on 14th Street has a cozy lounge and a full restaurant to keep you happy (and full) while you wait. The all-day breakfast is the culinary move here but really you’ll want to focus on spotting Atlanta entertainment royalty. T.I. and Shaq are both regulars here and others like Migos, Julio Jones, Wocka Flocka Flame, Mike Epps, Rick Ross, and Akon have been spotted here. If it’s good enough for Gucci Mane it’s most certainly good enough for us.

The Catbird Seat in Nashville, TN

The Catbird Seat is more than a restaurant, it’s a lesson in how restaurants work. This 22-seat, tasting-menu-only restaurant runs just two dinner services per night. Diners sit in a U-shaped bar that encompasses the cooking space. Food preparation becomes performance as some of Nashville’s finest (and prettiest) food is prepared with expert dexterity. Catbird Seat presents itself as a place for chefs to cut their teeth but we think it’s a pretty great spot for diners to learn a thing or two as well.

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Food adventure!

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The Bikery in St. Petersburg, FL

Most cyclists will tell you that bikes and coffee are a match made in heaven. And any cyclist that would say otherwise is wrong. What better way to get some miles in than with a cappuccino break? Or maybe you just want to get a flat white while someone else fixes your flat. There’s plenty of bike + coffee shops across the world but we’re partial to The Bikery in St. Petersburg. They have a lovely open space set up and it’s a straight (and flat!) shot to the beautiful St. Pete water font. The Bikery also hosts yoga classes and group rides so they’ve kinda got everything you need.

Mollie Fontaine Lounge in Memphis, TN

Consider the Mollie Fontaine Lounge to be a midnight history lesson. This historic-home-turned-hangout-spot is located in Memphis’s Victorian Village, a preservation district right outside Downtown Memphis. We definitely encourage you to check out the Woodruff-Fontaine House, a 150-year-old house museum across the street. But if you just want to skip to the cocktails and small plates in the three-story lounge we won’t judge. After all, the previous owners had plenty of parties here, they just didn’t involve a DJ.

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the after party

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Bistro le Relais in Louisville, KY

Want all the history of a place like Molly Fontaine’s but don’t feel like putting on your dancing shoes? Then you need to head to Bistro le Relais in Louisville. This classic French restaurant is located in the terminal at Bowman Field, one of the longest continually operating general aviation airports in the country. You can enjoy the Art Deco furnishings of the restaurant interior or head for the patio and watch the planes land as you dine. Whichever approach you take, leave plenty of time to luxuriate here.

Proof on Main in Louisville, KY

We tried not to repeat cities here but, hey, Louisville’s got some great restaurants y’all. Proof on Main is… hard to miss. You can chalk that up to the enormous gold replica of the Statue of David. The restaurant is part of the 21c Louisville museum hotel which offers travelers both a place to rest and beautiful contemporary art to enjoy. Trust us, we went and saw it for ourselves. Proof has delicious, award-worthy food and wine to accompany the exquisite art hanging on their walls. It’s a restaurant, it’s an art gallery, it’s hotel, it’s where you should be right now.