You could almost imagine Queen Bey and her coven of Southern-gothic queens sipping lemonade at Belle Shoals, what with its iron chandeliers, blood-red curtains and Etta James’s “Good Rockin’ Daddy” booming from a vintage Wurlitzer jukebox. The town that inspired the Williamsburg watering hole is a fictional one, an early-20th-century Southern hamlet conjured by owner Josh Mazza (Seamstress, the Gilroy), but the set-dressing could convince you otherwise; it’s all rusting trumpets, yellowing books and worn-in leather banquettes. The menu is fashioned after a town-hall newsletter, with old-timey weekly announcements (“Dancing Days are here again!”) interspersed with the bar’s top-notch lineup of country-twanged cocktails.
ORDER THIS: Below-the–Mason Dixon drinks ($13)—like the Carolinas-inspired, Cheerwine-splashed Salisbury Sling (Botanist gin, Atlantico rum, King’s Ginger and Heering Cherry liqueur)—are a collaboration between Seamstress bar maven Pamela Wiznitzer and head bartender James “Jimbo” Palumbo (the Up & Up). Porch-swing sweet tea is reconstructed with peach-cobbler moonshine and George Dickel white corn whiskey in the Boss Peaches’ Sunday Tea, while the Lil’ Slice of Heaven plays on the warming, toasty flavors of all-American pie with Mellow Corn whiskey, Black Strap rum, nutty pecan orgeat and cinnamon. Shots ($3), like the whiskey-and-Aperol June Bug, are doled out in, of all things, shotgun shells.
GOOD FOR: Southern-fried bar food that goes beyond frizzled bird—although chef Aaron LaMonica (Cull & Pistol) does make a mean version of a fried-chicken biscuit sandwich ($13), giving it a General Tso’s revamp with chilies, cashews and green onions. Oysters come dredged and deep-fried in a New Orleans–style po’ boy with creamy slaw ($15) or, better yet, wrapped in Virginia ham atop an herb crêpe with smoky aioli and pickled onions ($14). Even salad comes with a little fried somethin’ somethin’: A wedge dressed with pickled shrimp and buttermilk dressing is dotted with crunchy corn-bread croutons ($14).
THE CLINCHER: The inside may say Delta-blues dive, but the outside is a Southern garden party. The ample side yard of the bar’s former tenant Good Company has been refurbished with lattice fencing, white picnic tables and meandering lavender vines. It’s a charming setting for an after-work julep (the garden is open nightly until midnight) or a weekend picnic brunch of buckwheat pancakes ($13), shrimp and white-corn grits ($9) and draft rosé ($8), which the bar hosts Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4pm. It may have replaced the well-liked Good Co., but from tastes to tipples, Belle Shoals proves that you’re still in good company.