A while back, we had the pleasure of getting a sneak peek at what Chef Kyle Foster had in store for his upcoming restaurant, Julep. The teaser was held at Stir Cooking School, owned by Foster’s partner in life and business, Katy Foster. Julep is a joint venture of the couple and we loved what we heard from them and what we tasted. We had a really good feeling about Julep before it even opened its doors. That feeling was confirmed when we were fortunate to be present the night before the restaurant would finally open.
Julep labels itself as “Sophisticated Southern.” Everything about the place says that, clearly. The restaurant space, located at 3258 Larimer St., is somehow industrial-meets-magnolias-in-bloom. Paned glass, a golden hue from the bar, cozy corners with flowery wallpaper, upholstered banquettes and then wide open spaces and exposed ductwork. It’s pretty, sleek and inviting.
The southern influence of decor and food are born of Kyle and Katy’s upbringing and travels throughout the south, where different regions religiously follow certain traditions, ingredients and preparations. Foster took some of this, some of that and a lot of his own to create his menu. Take the Grilled Squid whose description reads: Laurel-aged Carolina Gold rice, Meyer lemon mojo and squid ink sofrito ($13). One might expect a bed of rice but instead, grains are sparingly combined with it all, bathed in black.
Sides of Braised Greens ($5) and Mac & Cheese ($6) taste familiar, made all the more homey served in individual iron pots. The Smoked Fish Dip with housemade benne seed crackers ($6) looks like something you’d expect to see on a southern table. This version is made with trout and had great flavor but was a little too salty.
Made-from-scratch is a mantra at Julep with the extra step of using ingredients fully and thoroughly like using the turnip and its greens, as any self-respecting homecook would do. Foster takes the familiar and twists it, not just to do something different, but to bring out full flavors. Take the good old Bologna Sandwich. One of my dad’s favorite sandwiches was fried bologna with mayo on white bread. He made them for me on several occasions and they were, I’m only slightly ashamed to say, delicious. So when I saw “Bologna Sandwich” on Julep’s menu, I had to try it. A monster of a thing, easily shareable, the sandwich contains house-made bologna, chow chow made from butterbeans and tangy Dukes mayo, served with a bag of Zappo kettle chips for $10. It’s a helluva deal! The flavors took me back to my dad’s sandwiches but oh-so-much-more! A little pickly, savory, slightly sweet and sitting pretty between two big slices of their house-made Pullman white bread, I loved it.
Dessert on our preview night was the Sweet Potato Brule topped with a s’more I had sampled back at Stir and a Pineapple Upside Down Cake with a spoonful of pink peppercorn ice cream. My sweet potato-loving hubby was in heaven over the brule and I was pleased as pineapple punch with my cake, especially that dream of an ice cream!
Julep’s menu is made up of small, medium and larger plates and sharing is encouraged. Sharing is not required for cocktails but savoring them slowly, is. They pack a punch! Our Ginger Julep and Sazerac were plenty for the evening.
Julep is open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday-Saturday and brunch on the weekends. When the warm weather comes around, two enormous garage-door window panels will basically open up the entire front of the restaurant to the patio facing Larimer. That’ll be nice for some southern porch drinking, and eating.