Nellie’s Southern Kitchen officially opened at MGM Grand Las Vegas in June, joining the fabulous collection of celebrity-backed restaurants and delicious cuisine. Owned by Denise and Kevin Jonas, Sr. (and yes, that’s Jonas Brothers “Jonas”), guests can take a trip to Belmont, North Carolina, without ever leaving Las Vegas. The restaurant’s design and menu take visitors off the Strip and into the mountains with comfort food flavors and unique style elements.
A Visit to Nellie’s Southern Kitchen Inside MGM Grand
If you’re at all familiar with the former restaurant housed in the new Nellie’s Southern Kitchen space, you’ll know what a feat it was to redesign the space and revamp the theme into a model of understated elegance and earthier tones. “It was beautiful but open. So the outside wall, I think it was important to separate us a little bit,” Owner Kevin Jonas, Sr., told us. “The facility was broken in there and less open than what it is now. It was especially challenging because it’s a big footprint.”
We were invited for a media tour of the restaurant and the menu (you can read all about that here). Denise and Kevin Jonas, Sr. gave us the inside scoop on the unique design elements, the family recipes on the menu and the special nuances that make Nellie’s Southern Kitchen one-of-a-kind. To bring the “folklore aesthetic” to life, The Jonas Group brought in OLY Studio’s Kate McIntyre.
As you approach the restaurant from The District, you’ll first spot the weathered barn wood that encases the space. “So start with our entrance way, you see the barn wood outside, and we wanted to kind of erect the outside barn wood to just bring a separation and kind of allow for our own space here that had its own atmosphere,” Jonas, Sr. told us as we walked through the entrance.
“As you walk through the entranceway, you’ll notice a lot of the chandeliers have birds on them. It’s kind of a tribute to my grandfather and my grandmother, who love birds. So they always had bird baths, bird houses, etc. And as you walk in, you’ll see the hand-carved woodwork. But this was really inspired by like a grandmother’s quilt.”
The space also features shiplap walls modeled after the exterior walls of homes and buildings in North Carolina. “We brought the outside of the homes inside. This is the Front Porch area. In fact, we have a front porch punch as one of our drinks. You see the birds again, the bird houses that my grandfather would make that were constantly around our yard. You’ve probably seen Southern front porches that have flowers that would spill over and grow. The chandeliers reflect that. As part of the design, almost all of the tables have tree trunks small and large.”
The Front Porch
Aside from the stunning white, quilted wall, a larger-than-life portrait of Nellie greets guests as they walk in the door. “So the designer came to visit us. We have a picture museum that kind of is chronicling the history of our small town in Belmont, North Carolina,” Jonas, Sr. explained. “And in it, she saw pictures, some of that’s reflected on the portrait. So if you look at the portrait of my grandmother as you enter, it is her face. And it reflects some of our family history. Her maiden name was Fox, and her family came from the mountains of North Carolina on the Fox side, as best we can ascertain. Faith was an important part of our lives, and growing up; our state bird is the cardinal. The dog in the portrait actually was our dog Monkey; you’ll see the banjo which she could play; music is just a part of our lives. You couldn’t have a Jonas restaurant without music.”
The “Bar(n)” space feature chairs with a unique spoon shape (a nod to Nellie’s spoon-playing) and tables with horse hooves. Jonas, Sr. explained the unique tables to us, “I tell the story and forgive me if you’ve heard me tell it but my uncle who passed away last year. He told me that he and his friends at the local bar have a table that they call the drunk table that they meet every day after work and put down a few. And he said, Are you going to have a drunk table? So when the larger version of this table arrived in Belmont, I called him in and said, No, we have your drunk table. If you get drunk enough, you get the ride at home.”
Even the private rooms (referred to as “The Meadow”) are subtly themed with an accompanying aesthetic. The rooms include peaceful murals and a color scheme modeled after Belmont’s rolling hills and meadows. With different sections of the restaurant modeled after different themes, guests are already taking notice of the space. “We’ve already had people come in, and they’re like, ‘Well, I sat on the front porch the first day I want to sit back in the barn(n), “Jonas, Sr. told us.
The Night Owl
The final spot to explore was the Night Owl portion of the space, which includes high-tech A/V equipment and a state-of-the-art system from the same experts that handle the Jonas Brother’s stage systems. The Night Owl space will also feature live music every night. If you’re looking for a Jonas Brothers connection, you’ll find a small wall between the Night Owl and The Meadow with various photos. “It’s hard to ignore the success of our children, and obviously, people know that primarily,” Jonas, Sr. explained. What we found in Belmont is the celebrity portion lasted about three weeks. After that, you’re either a good restaurant and the service is good and the food is good, or you’re not. So having it as a draw is okay. People now walk down our hallway and go ‘Why is there a shrine to the Jonas Brothers in this restaurant’ and have no idea about the connection.”
The Jonas family is certainly familiar with MGM Resorts International and looks forward to a long-lasting partnership with the company. “They partnered with us and said they would be partners from the beginning. But they have gone overboard to try to make sure we’re comfortable, and we have what we need to work around,” Jonas, Sr. told us. “Whether it was facilities or staffing. They’ve helped us work around numerous obstacles to be able to open it and make it successful. So and especially Mike Neubecker at the MGM Grand has been amazing.”