Taylor Swift has her eras, and so does Stephanie Phares.
Every few years, the Baton Rouge restaurateur has made style shifts to her popular Zeeland Street eatery since it opened nearly three decades years ago. She’s taken it from a to-go counter in a convenience store (then named Marino’s), to a cafe well known for Southern breakfasts and plate lunches. Regulars—and there are lots of them—remember how Zeeland’s convenience store shelves gradually gave way to tables as diners began to see the place for its true calling: a neighborhood gathering spot. The years brought the addition of an outdoor patio and the replacement of disposable plates with retro melamine dishes. There was a time before the pandemic when Phares partnered with Dyson House Listening Room and held live evening concerts. And another when she exhibited local artwork. Along the way, she’s changed the interior design and table configuration, too, while maintaining a consistent audience drawn to homemade biscuits and fluffy pancakes at breakfast and pot roast and homey sides at lunch.
Just in the last six weeks, there came another big tweak: the addition of a snazzy weekend brunch menu rife with Benedicts and boozy drinks.
And on Wednesday, Nov. 1, diners will see the biggest change yet when Phares introduces what we’ll call her “evening era.” That’s when her longtime dream of serving dinner finally bears fruit with an elevated soul food concept called Beloved.
It’s not a new restaurant in a different location, but a fresh nighttime identity for Zeeland Street.
“In big cities, you’re seeing one location being used for two things,” Phares says. “And that’s what I’m doing here: changing things out in the afternoon to become Beloved.”
The switch happens like this. After Zeeland’s lunch or brunch service concludes, a new dinner staff rolls in to dress tables with white tablecloths, move a sliding wall over the normally visible drink machine and remove the self-serve tea station. A back-of-the-house team heads for the kitchen to start prepping. Servers get menus ready and prepare for guests to arrive. They’ll also turn the lights down and fire up the classic soul.
Some of the new physical changes made for Beloved are permanent and are thus on display during Zeeland’s hours, including brocade pendant lights, fresh blue and mushroom brown wall colors, blue banquettes and enlarged sepia-tone family photos. One image features Phares and her grandmother, who raised her after her mom died of breast cancer when Phares was 4 years old.
Phares tosses around the word “sexy” more than once to describe how she sees Beloved’s vibe, which is fortified by her plan to welcome guests whilst decked out in evening wear. (She jokes that she’s plumbed secondhand stores to have plenty of fancy stuff on hand.)
While she works the front of the house, her partner on the project, Chef David Dickensauge, will command the kitchen. Dickensauge recently left Beausoleil Coastal Cuisine to work as a private chef and restaurant consultant, and has been helping Phares plan and launch Beloved. He will be in the kitchen for the first several months as the concept gets off the ground.
“We’re both from Mississippi,” Dickensauge says. “I love what she’s about and how hands-on she’s been with her food.”
Beloved’s menu includes an ample round-up of modern soul food dishes informed by Southern foodways. Of course, Cajun and Creole ingredients factor big in the dishes, too. And you’ll see occasional global nuances intended to reflect the African diaspora, Dickensauge says.
Among many shareable appetizers are cold-smoked chicken wings prepared in two phases: first smoked and then fried and served with blueberry barbecue sauce and a ranch-style sauce that, itself, has been smoked. The Soul Style Dip Platter features soothing toppers like pimento cheese, smoked crab dip and black-eyed pea hummus joined by cheese straws and buttermilk crackers and house-made pickles. The okra, crab and andouille beignets amass three iconic Louisiana ingredients into a deep-fried morsel that’s finished with cayenne powdered sugar and chicory coffee glaze.
Oxtails are a soul food mainstay, and you can find them here in the oxtail soup, a beefy brew accompanied by pickled quail eggs and fried pig ears. It’s part of a soup lineup that also includes gumbo made with turkey necks, shrimp and andouille and the nostalgic greens-centric New Orleans Lenten dish, gumbo z’herbes.
Hardy “big plates” feature the harissa-crusted lamb chop served with oxtail and boiled peanut stew, curry broccoli salad, spiced peanuts and red-eye gravy demi-glace, as well as the tea-brined pork chop with andouille-studded pinto beans, collard greens with ham hocks and a topping of cranberry relish. Fish dishes have been a constant at Zeeland, and they will be at Beloved, too, Phares says, with jerk wild salmon, slow roasted whole fish and fish specials on offer. There’s also a creamy smoked salmon dip made with salmon Phares smokes herself.
A rotating dessert menu features unconstrained church supper classics like peach cobbler with a biscuit crust, carrot cake and a version of pound cake with an impossibly fine crumb. Its secret ingredient, Phares says, is heavy cream.
Zeeland Street and Beloved are at 2031 Perkins Road. For updates, visit the restaurant’s Facebook page.