Home Cooking Gets a Classic Upgrade at Hattie's

Some Southerners -- and we're talking South Carolina's Lowcountry here -- feel right at home with a plate of shrimp and grits in front of them, but may find the white table cloth it's sitting on a bit off-putting. This isn't a jab at Southern sophistication; it just isn't a dish that's usually plated like something on Top Chef. But it's at this junction of modern styling and domestic cuisine that you'll find Hattie's home-style-chic ambiance.

The restaurant, a seven-year resident of the Bishop Arts District, offers a charming timelessness accentuated by an eclectic mix of design elements. Perhaps most interesting about them is the thoughtful way they're dispersed in the space.

"I wanted this place to feel like it had evolved over time,"said co-owner and designer Hal Dantzler.

A South Carolina native and avid traveler, Dantzler adopted ideas from many of the locales he visited. The retro tile floor is borrowed from a design he spotted in New York; the low-lit ambiance in the evening is pilfered from a Paris café.

An 8-foot screen print of a Blue Willow plate hangs on one wall, and a rustic cupboard -- made by the previous tenant -- houses a collection of serving materials. Polished pitchers next to a cluster of coffee mugs adjacent to a row of wine glasses bring a sense of real down-home hospitality to the space.

"We wanted serving pieces that looked residential in a way," Dantzler says. These elements, homey and unpretentious -- are what tie the cuisine to the diverse design, despite the restaurant's upscale milieu.

The four-cheddar mac-and-cheese is a favorite, and a Lowcountry classic, but dishes like prosciutto-wrapped black mission figs with blue cheese and walnut stuffing are a stand-out. For a substantial entrée, guests migrate to the wrapped meatloaf with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy or the butcher-block pork chop with house-made apple glaze, spoonbread and braised greens. Black-eyed peas and endive salad with bacon vinaigrette is the city cousin of Hoppin' John, and the fried green tomatoes are a necessary addition to any Southern-style menu.

So if at first glance the atmosphere appears too upscale to match the Southern-style fare, take another look around and you may notice the design is as timeless as macaroni and cheese.

418 Bishop Ave.