You could say Jared Brewington has done some soul-searching.
And after mulling an idea for half a decade, the business-consultant-turned-entrepreneur is ready to bare it. His upcoming restaurant, Funky Grits (805 E. 38th St., Mpls., funkygrits.com), will celebrate soul food, funk and soul music and the soul of a neighborhood he treasures.
“It’s a community love affair, really,” he said. “This is a neighborhood that’s changing, and I want to show the roots.”
Brewington should know something about that. He grew up in the Kingfield area like his father and grandmother before him, and his father ran an eatery called Rib Cage that sat at 38th and Nicollet for a few years — about 12 blocks from Funky Grits’ 38th & Chicago post.
Brewington plans to debut his own contribution along with partner Jordan Carlson, the Sample Room’s former sous chef, on April 1.
“South Side has always been happy and inclusive,” Brewington said. “This is our heart, and we’ve been received really genuinely.”
The restaurant, which was designed by Smart Associates, will be entirely powered by solar and wind, according to Brewington.
As the name implies, patrons can expect grits — lots of them. But Brewington and Carlson plan to elevate the cornmeal far beyond the buttered side that has long served as a Southern staple. Instead, grits will be used as the foundation for the likes of braised pork belly, gulf shrimp, andouille sausage, aged cheeses and more, along with a mélange of fresh, pickled and roasted veggies and sauces. Yes, there will be shrimp and grits. There will be biscuits, including the Electric Biscuit with confit chicken, hock-braised greens and cracklin.’ And perlo, a Southern chicken and rice stew. But grits will also be used to add crunch to fried items like the battered avocado skins and chicken tenders, and serve as the basis for items like the “cornpuppies” — corn-battered pork belly with apple jam and Creole mustard — and grit-and-Cheddar bites.
“I have a secret to show everyone,” Brewington said. “Grits can be really good and they’re not what you thought they were.”
The substantial menu includes an array of “soul signature” plates ($13), a handful of sandwiches ($12), salads ($11), starters ($9) and sides ($6) with a few soups and desserts rounding out a lineup that includes many vegetarian and gluten-free options. Wine and beer (exclusively Bauhaus Brew Lab varieties) will also be available.
And then there’s the music element. Brewington’s great-uncle was Sonny Tilghman of Sonny Til and the Orioles — a chart-topping doo-wop band generally acknowledged as R&B’s first vocal group. As a longtime drummer who has played in bands most of his life, Brewington is similarly inspired. To that end, he’s curated a playlist of more than 800 funk and soul songs from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s by handpicking each one, many recorded off vinyl records.
“Soulful, funky music was always a backdrop in my mind,” he said. “And this is the meticulous stuff that’s going to make the music purists love us. I think that will show through.”