No details were spared at Supperland, the highly anticipated new restaurant in a former church in Plaza Midwood.
by Cathy Martin • photographs by Justin Driscoll
For foodies and craft cocktail lovers, the March 3 opening of Supperland has been a long time coming. If you’ve followed along on Instagram over the last two years, you’ve witnessed the enthusiasm and pure joy owners Jamie Brown and Jeff Tonidandel and their team have poured into the project, a renovation of a 1950s church in the heart of Plaza Midwood.
“It really isn’t just a restaurant. We’ve restored a space that has never been a restaurant before, and there are so many tricks to that, things you don’t figure out until you’re in the middle of it,” says Brown, who met Tonidandel when both were undergrads at Davidson College. Throw a pandemic into the mix, and the timeline becomes even less certain. Construction started in earnest about two years ago on the 5,250-square-foot building a block behind the Harris Teeter on The Plaza.
Supperland is the couple’s fifth dining concept, joining NoDa mainstays Haberdish, Crepe Cellar, Growlers Pourhouse and Reigning Doughnuts. The owners describe Supperland as a Southern steakhouse with inspiration from church potluck picnics, but a preview in February reveals a myriad of influences, from English gardens to Southern sensibilities.
Working with Peadon Finein Architecture, the couple tackled the majority of the design work themselves, from selecting tile and light fixtures to creating their own plates and handcrafting tables in their home garage.
“We both have such passion for restoring old places,” Brown says. The church was built in 1956 by The Plaza Church of Christ, according to Brown’s research. A 2,250-square-foot adjacent building that will serve as Supperland’s cocktail bar was built in 1948 and used by members while the church raised money for construction of the main building. The congregation eventually moved to a larger building on Providence Road, and the last sermon was delivered at the Plaza property in 1979. The building was home to various pursuits including a frame shop and an art gallery before plans for Supperland were unveiled.
No detail was overlooked in designing the space, from the delicate etched glassware to the pretty patterned tile bathroom floors. Purple leather banquettes line walls adorned with vintage-inspired Luna Bella sconces. The rough cinder-block walls — intentionally left bare after drywall was removed — blend unexpectedly with the feminine botanical print wallpaper design by London artist Adrienne Kerr. Four oversized chandeliers suspended from the white-washed, open-truss ceilings lend an elegance to the space while allowing unobstructed views of the large open kitchen. Tables are fashioned from North Carolina hickory with brass inlays to mimic the look of table runners, and 120-year-old church pews from Colorado were refurbished with new seat cushions.
As a nod to the building’s previous life as a church, the owners stained the floor where the center aisle ran between the pews of the sanctuary a slightly different color.
“We wanted to keep the idea of leading people’s eye that way, because I’m a big believer in using a space as it was originally meant to be used,” Brown says.
When it came time to choose dishes, the partners hit a stumbling block. Brown had seen some plates at Anthropologie designed by London artist and illustrator Lou Rota. She reached out and commissioned Rota to design four dinner plates, bread plates, tea sets and serving pieces inspired by the birds and foliage of a Southern garden. The dishes are available for purchase through Supperland’s website.
On the menu, guests can expect Southern steakhouse specialties cooked in Supperland’s custom open-fire kitchen served family style with shareable sides, along with daily specials and appetizers including caviar with homemade blinis.
Supperland will also offer an afternoon tea service with sandwiches and pastries, inspired by the couple’s trips to London. “I think there are a lot of parallels between London and the South,” Brown says. “It’s just a special way to spend an afternoon.”
While afternoon tea might conjure images of proper ladies with pinkies extended, don’t expect much stuffiness here. The dessert menu will feature a seasonal Jell-O, a dish made with Marshmallow Fluff and lots of homemade pies.
“This being an old church, we wanted to pull in a lot of whimsy and fun and color into the dishes,” Brown says. “It will kind of take the steakhouse idea and freshen it up, brighten it up, root it here in the South — here in this church, here in this neighborhood.” SP
Supper time: Supperland opens for dinner March 3, with outdoor seating available. Weekend lunch and brunch service will be added later in the spring. The cocktail bar led by mixologist Colleen Hughes will serve an abbreviated menu beginning at a later date, and a private dining room downstairs will seat 10-12 people with a view of the glass-enclosed prep kitchen. Reservations are available at supper.land.