Some Big Changes Are Coming To Big Jones This Year
By Anthony Todd in Food on Jun 30, 2017 8:15PM
The soon-to-be-previous interior of Big Jones. Photo by Grant Kessler.
Big Jones, Chef Paul Fehribach's amazing southern restaurant, is a huge hit. It's beloved by residents of Andersonville, it's generally packed, and it makes its way into plenty of national best-of lists. But after ten years of success, Fehribach has decided it's time to make some changes.
"When we opened, we had a very limited budget," Fehribach said. "We took over Augie’s, which had been a diner open since 1954, and we did what we had to do to bring the building up to code, but we didn’t just open up our pockets and build the dream kitchen."
Some of the kitchen and building hadn't changed much since 1964, and though Fehribach was doing much more complex food than Augie's (including preservation, pickling and charcuterie programs), he had to make do. That also went for the interior: "If we’d had more money, we would have done a nicer storefront, but we did sheet glass and the cheapest windows we could," he said. In other words, exactly what you're supposed to do when you're a scrappy new restauranteur trying to make it.
Luckily, Big Jones has come a long way in ten years, and has made enough money that Fehribach can make some changes. Those changes are coming in two rounds. First, the front of the restaurant has been redesigned, with new windows that open onto Clark street, a more spacious waiting area for guests, banquettes in the front of the restaurant to save some space (since chairs won't have to be pushed back anymore) and a new door, which according to Fehribach, is "a heavy wood thing that looks like it's from a rich ****ers house."
But these changes are pretty tiny compared to what's to come. First off, they'll be finishing the basement, building an additional kitchen, and moving all of the restaurant's prep work downstairs. This will allow a dramatic expansion of their preservation programs, and Fehribach hopes to get a certification that will allow for more retail sales. A small retail space will be part of the design changes.
To open up the dining room a bit, the current wall between the kitchen and dining room will be sliced open, and a new 6 to 8 person chef's counter will be added. The kitchen will be somewhat redesigned to allow for better traffic flow. Most exciting of all (for those who love the fried chicken at Big Jones), the restaurant will start doing delivery of some of the most popular dishes on the menu.
Speaking of that chicken, it's been an interesting conundrum for Fehribach over the years. He wants to play with more complex variations on modern and antique southern cuisine, but customers "expect it to be comfort food" like biscuits, peach cobbler and fried chicken.
"I think right now that disproportionately consumes our image," Fehribach said. The delivery menu will likely focus on those foods, while in the dining room (and at the chef's counter in particular) things may get a bit more interesting. "I’m having a lot of fun envisioning what the next thing is for the more creative dine-in menu. I want to take the restaurant into more of a contemporary representation of southern cuisine."
Most of the changes at the front of the restaurant will be done in the next couple of weeks, while the larger construction projects will start happening this fall.