Tim Thomas, an Art Institute of Philadelphia-trained chef whose background includes Mica in Chestnut Hill and Forcella and Flora in Jenkintown, has opened Southern Belle (700 West Ave., 215-887-2961), a cash-only, Southern-inspired BYOB with a frilly decor and laid-back atmosphere.
It replaces Leila's, which moved nearby.
Thomas, 31, who grew up in Nicetown, draws on his varied background (barbecue, vegan, Italian) for his comfort-food menu.
"I decided on Southern because I figured that if I had a chance to make it, that's one thing missing from the scene here," said Thomas, who retained the Vargases as a partner.
Don't miss the shrimp and grits, the hot chicken, and the hush puppies, which are so addictive that people, having eaten them as appetizers, order more for dessert. It's open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner.