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Canton’s new Southern Porch Kitchen & Drink — a restaurant and bar where Alan Jackson would feel right at home

By Paul Viau | Jun 29, 2016
Photo by: Paul Viau WELCOME TO SOUTHERN PORCH — Three of the four family owners of Southern Porch Kitchen & Drink in Canton are shown (where else but) on the porch; f rom left, Dave Grant, Cindi Layman and Nathan Lowe. Not pictured is Michaela Blanton Lowe.

Y’all know that my wife and I enjoy good food, fine wine, craft beer and music. And we often share ‘all of the above’ while ‘deck sittin.’

Yes, sitting out on the deck at the end of the day is one of the most relaxing things about life here in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and it’s much akin to the way we used to sit on our porch and chill in Jupiter, Florida.

Back in the day, we would often sit and listen to Alan Jackson. And one of our favorite A.J. songs is “Where I Come From” — where he sings the praises Southern life, “like cornbread and chicken, front porch sittin,’ and back porch pickin.’

Well, I’m here to tell you that there is a restaurant and bar where Alan Jackson and most all the residents of WNC would feel right at home — the newest staging of Canton’s Imperial Hotel — as Southern Porch Kitchen & Drink.

Southern Porch opened two months ago with a simple recipe for success — combine old fashioned Southern cooking with dining in the relaxed setting of Canton’s Imperial Hotel, with its iconic front porch.

Oh yes, did I mention that all of this porch-like ambience is neatly paired with an excellent selection of craft beer on draft, in bottles and in cans? It’s one of the most diverse craft beer lineups in Haywood County. And it’s ever-changing.

“When one keg ‘blows,’ we always tap something different,” said Nathan Lowe, one of four Southern Porch’s family of partners.

For those less ‘cervesa-centric,’ Southern Porch also has a full bar offering mixed drink’s a variety of wine offerings. And, of course you can always have the non-alcoholic porch favorites — sweet and unsweet tea.

You may know Nathan Lowe from his successful corn hole tournament business. It takes someone with true entrepreneurial spirit to quit a very good job in health care, and devote full time promoting the popular backyard game of cornhole.

Lowe is now banking on his experience as a restaurant manager and chef.

“I’ve always wanted to own a restaurant,” he said. “When Canton’s Imperial Hotel became available, I had a Nike moment — ‘Just do it.’”

Lowe not only had his family’s blessings, many have joined the team, bringing great personal experience.

Nathan Lowe’s wife, Michaela Blanton Lowe, also has restaurant experience — at Balsam Mountain Preserve, no less.

Michaela pitches in at Southern Porch whenever possible, juggling parental duty of the Lowes’ 5-year-old daughter, Brindley, and almost-2-year-old daughter, Khairee.

Michaela also works as WNC director of March of Dimes, managing the Tye Blanton Foundation.

Michaela’s stepfather, Dave Grant, is ‘the man with the pan’ — handling chef duties at Southern Porch. You may recognize Grant as chef at Blue Rooster in Clyde for many years, and he has really risen to the occasion at Southern Porch.

“We take a farm to table approach at Southern Porch,” said Grant. “We like to use local produce, whenever possible.

Cases in point are the hand-pattied burgers, cooked to order, using Canton’s own Rice Farms’ natural beef, hand-cut, 10-oz. chef’s choice steaks, fresh salmon, shrimp and grits, surf and turf, oysters from Sentelle’s Seafood Market and Grant’s own appetizer creation — avocado-stuffed, deep-fried onions, called Halos.

Grant is also a man after my own heart.

“I like using alcohol in my recipes It all cooks off, you know,” Grant said.

Southern Porch’s menu includes Imperial Cheese Dip made with craft beer and Bourbon barbecue sauce. But enough about secret ingredients.

Grant has also given the kitchen staff creative license, so the Southern Porch menu includes Bob’s buffalo dip and Spencer’s pimento cheese.

Rounding out the Southern Porch family owners is Cindi Layman — Michaela Blanton Lowe’s mother, Nathan Lowe’s mother-in-law and Dave Grant’s wife. Not surprisingly, Layman has her own restaurant experience — 14 years at Bogart’s Restaurant in Waynesville, wearing a variety of hats.

At Southern Porch, she is the voice of reason.

“We want to create a laid-back family atmosphere at Southern Porch,” said Layman. “We want all of the Haywood County People to feel welcome here.”

And to make guests feel more at home, Southern Porch offers Sunday brunch specials, trivia night weekly, cornhole in the side yard and live music several times per week (including music on the porch, weather permitting) — featuring groups like 3,000 Souls Christian rock band; Ain’t Nothing Much (talented buskers from Asheville); the duo of Jesse Stevens and Ben Morgan; and Kevin Fuller.

So if you are in the mood for ‘front porch sittin’ and you like simply delicious Southern cuisine in a relaxing environment garnished with craft beer, fine wine and an occasional margarita,

“Y’all come on down to Southern Porch.”

Southern Porch Kitchen & Drink is at 117 Main St., Canton. For information, call 828-492-8006 or visit www.Southern-Porch.com, where you can see the full food, beer and entertainment menus and even book a private event.