Southern Secrets

At the Plaza on Ponce, chef Joey Ward’s SOUTHERN BELLE and GEORGIA BOY play to contemporary culture


Editor’s Note: “In response to COVID-19 and in an attempt to keep our staff safe, we have temporarily closed until we are safely able to serve our guests again. Please show your support for the team by purchasing a gift card, donating to our GoFundMe, or buying a delicious custom cake from one of our chefs, KT (@ktcooksincolors), by direct message on Instagram. We miss you, Atlanta, and we cannot wait to serve you again soon.” —Chef Joey Ward

Bless your heart. The luminosity of the neon letters radiates almost as intensely as the Southern slang’s coded meaning upon entering chef Joey Ward’s new restaurant, Southern Belle. “If you don’t know what it means then you’re not in on the secret,” Ward chuckles. 

Keep your eyes peeled for more messages that Ward communicates through his interiors. Imagery of famous and nonfamous women who inspire Ward covers the walls—including his grandmother and his home economics teacher, along with Scarlett O’Hara and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The restaurant’s name, Southern Belle, nods to Ward’s wife, a former Miss Georgia-turned-attorney and he says, “the strongest woman I know.” 

Like the decor, guests are in for a surprise once they dive into the menu. Don’t be shocked when you find Southern ingredients, like the root beer-braised short rib, served with Asian-inspired dishes, like Szechuan sweet potatoes. But that’s not the only surprise: Limited to 16 guests at a time and accessed through a secret bookcase entrance, the reservation-only, Georgia Boy, provides a more intimate dining experience, serving an ever-changing, 10-course tasting menu. 

Whatever your culinary preference, it’s clear guests should expect the unexpected when dining at either concept. “I wanted to have the conversation from the beginning that this is Southern food because I’m a Southern chef,” explains Ward. “I’m from Atlanta, and I’m celebrating modern Atlanta culture.”