South of Beale, Memphis' first gastropub, has always held food as its focus. That's why Ed and Brittany Cabigao — owners of S.O.B., Interim, and Zaka Bowl — have decided to move S.O.B. into a larger space with a much larger kitchen, something their new head chef, Daniel Gamboa, is thrilled about.
"The main reason is that we do need more space," owner Ed Cabigao says. "We designed this kitchen to do half the business it's doing now. So basically, the kitchen is really overcrowded, overloaded ... I want my employees to have a better space to work in."
The new venue, located on the first floor of the old Ambassador building, will open in spring 2020 at 345 S. Main.
The dining room will add about five more tables, the bar will be longer, and the kitchen is expected to be five times its current size. The new location will also feature three private dining rooms that can be transformed into one giant event space for large parties. "We basically decline one event a week, on average, because we just don't have the space right now," Cabigao explains.
The owners also seek to maintain the integrity of the original S.O.B., that of a cozy Downtown bar with an adventurous, chef-driven menu: "We want it to feel like S.O.B.," Cabigao says. "We're still going to keep it quaint and unpretentious but almost like an S.O.B. 2.0." In addition to more seating indoors, they will be expanding the patio space as well.
As they prepare for the move, the restaurant is embracing a new head chef: Daniel Gamboa, the bold and talented 22-year-old who blessed the S.O.B. menu with General Tso's Cauliflower, which has been the highest-selling appetizer on the menu since it dethroned the Duck Fried Rice last year.
Gamboa came to S.O.B. from Interim a year ago to serve as sous chef under Anthony Fenech, and the two did a menu refresh at that time that introduced several unique items, including the cauliflower. The menu redesign led to S.O.B. having its best year yet in 2018.
Ed Cabigao says they're slated to do even better in 2019, and he describes Gamboa as extremely hard-working, skilled, and full of energy. When asked about stepping up as head chef, Gamboa says, "It's a little scary, but I think I'm ready for it."
For those wondering if they'll introduce new menu items again at the relaunch next spring, it's a likely possibility.
"If we can push the food further, that's what we want to do," Cabigao says. "But we're going to let our customers gauge that, too. That's what we did when we first opened, and we'll do that again."
But the menu's staples — like the Duck Patty Melt and the Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese — aren't going anywhere.
So what's to happen with the old S.O.B.? The owners are looking for another restaurant tenant to take over the South Main space. Cabigao explains that they've had interest from some other bar concepts and burger places, but they "want whoever comes in here to complement not just the new S.O.B. but also Pontotoc, Slider Inn, Green Beetle — and not just be direct competition."
The owners will also turn the second and third floors of the Ambassador building into apartments, which may lead to even more foot traffic on the block.
S.O.B. celebrated its 10th anniversary with a lively party on August 10th. The space was filled with familiar faces: bar regulars, restaurant patrons, former and current staff, friends and family — and lots of children.
It was interesting to see how much the place seemed to have grown up in the last decade. But also, the people: Ed and Brittany themselves have had two kids since S.O.B. first opened, and in many ways it's like they're growing up alongside the business.
"I tell people all the time: We opened this place up when we were 26 years old," says Cabigao. "We thought we knew everything, but we didn't know everything."
The new South of Beale space, located on the first floor of the old Ambassador building, will open in spring 2020 at 345 S. Main.