One doesn’t need a map to figure out where restaurateur Greer Fredericks’ heart lies. Having once owned Norwalk’s Jax & Co. Low Country Kitchen, Mama’s Boy Southern Table & Refuge, and having just opened Peaches Southern Pub & Juke Joint in the same city, it’s a fair bet that her tastes run decidedly south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
“I was born and bred in Connecticut,” the Norwalk resident said at her latest venture. “But there’s part of me that feels like a foreigner here. I’ve always been drawn to the music, the culture, food, architecture, history, and mindset of the South. I feel very much at home when I’m there.”
There’s also the fact, she proudly noted, that she was named after the city of Greer, South Carolina.
As reflected by the ampersand in its name, Peaches is actually two eateries in one townhouse, which dates back to 1905, at 7 Wall St. The first-floor pub, measuring 2,000 square feet, has a 120-operson capacity, while the 1,200-square-foot bar and music space on the second floor, can hold 135 ,thanks to a rooftop deck.
“The Juke Joint is sort of Peaches’ alter ego,” Fredericks said. “Downstairs is very comfortable, come-as-you-are, while upstairs is where you can let loose a little bit. That’s where we encourage ‘responsible rowdiness.’” Local bands tending toward southern rock, though not exclusively, are already building followings there, she said.
Although “southern pub” sounds like an odd juxtaposition, Fredericks said it’s been a long-simmering concept – “I’ve had it for about 20 years” – that is freeing when it comes to décor and menu, as no one has a fixed idea of what a southern pub looks like. In this case, it’s high ceilings, distressed wood, and exposed brick walls that accent the many antiques she’s collected during trips to the South.
Dishes include Redneck Charcuterie (Benton’s country ham, Tasso ham, pickled vegetables, house-made pimento cheese, bacon jam, whole-grain mustard, Ritz crackers, and country toast); Carolina Pig Tails, served with barbecue sauce and buttermilk ranch; Panhandle Shrimp ‘n’ Grits; and of course the Bucket o’ Chicken.
Fredericks credits executive chef Paul Failla, formerly of Bar Sugo at 102 Wall St., and beverage director Tom Siano, formerly of Washington Prime at 141 Washington St., with building the creative food and drink menus.
Although the now-defunct Jax & Co. and the still-extant Mama’s Boy, which she sold in 2015, were created with the South in mind, Fredericks said only Peaches has truly realized her dream.
“Mama’s Boy was a little bit industrial and modern,” she said of the eatery at 19 N. Water St., “and there’s a sense of sophistication there that wasn’t quite what I wanted – South Norwalk is a little more highbrow. This neighborhood is more gritty… it looks right for what we’re doing. It’s a really cool neighborhood.”
Her career in the food industry began in high school, when she bussed tables at a Ridgefield diner; later she worked at the Rainbow Room and Windows on the World in Manhattan. Then the world of music came calling and she began working as “project manager, road manager, assistant, whatever,” Fredericks said, for the Rolling Stones on their Steel Wheels comeback tour, Willie Nelson, and Jessica Simpson, among others.
“I’d get burned out on one and go back to the other,” she said. “I went out on the road with Eddie Money last summer. But I’m happy to be focused on Peaches now. I’m back where it’s sane!”