Further securing her corner of the city’s competitive restaurant scene, Shane Thomas has taken control of the intersection of East Leigh and North Second streets in Jackson Ward.
She opened The Deuce at 119 E. Leigh St. last month across the street from her other restaurant Southern Kitchen, which she opened in 2019.
Thomas said she crafted The Deuce so it doesn’t cannibalize its sister spot.
“I didn’t want the little sister to disturb the big sister,” she said.
The Deuce menu features entrees like filet mignon and airline chicken alongside other offerings and cocktails. Southern Kitchen focuses on southern cuisine with menu items like shrimp and grits, fried chicken, fried seafood and sandwiches.
Entrees at The Deuce run $26 to $35, which is comparable to the prices of entrees across the street.
Thomas said The Deuce is open three nights a week and aims for a nighttime crowd, whereas Southern Kitchen caters to families.
“Deuce is going for a more mature audience, an audience that will enjoy nightlife,” she said.
Thomas said at first, she wasn’t interested in starting a new concept. But it was a way to add another black-owned business in Jackson Ward, a historic center of black entrepreneurship once known as the Harlem of the South.
The restaurant’s decor is themed to pay homage to that legacy. While researching the neighborhood’s history, Thomas said she learned it was common for residents to refer to Second Street as the Deuce in the 1920s and that’s why the restaurant has its name.
“I really did not have an interest in that building and doing a restaurant. What I did have an interest in was preserving the history of African Americans,” she said. “I began to feel sorrowful because people wouldn’t understand the legacy of this area. It isn’t really about racial injustice; it’s about caring enough to let other little black girls and black guys see this.”
The roughly 3,400 square-foot space can seat about 60-70 people indoors and on its patio, Thomas said. She spent about $200,000 to replace the kitchen and renovate the space.
The Deuce has four employees, including executive chef Antonio Henderson. Thomas said she’s had difficulty finding employees for her restaurants, a common challenge for restaurateurs during the pandemic. She said she’s had to increase starting pay, with dishwashers starting at $12 an hour and sous chefs getting $17-$18. She hopes to add brunch in the future.
Thomas first opened Southern Kitchen in Shockoe Bottom in 2013, and moved the restaurant to its current location at 541 N. Second St. in 2019. She co-owns Southern Kitchen with her daughter Chelsea Sailor, who handles day-to-day operations. Thomas is sole owner of The Deuce.
Southern Kitchen was featured on Gordon Ramsay’s “24 Hours to Hell and Back” TV series in a February 2020 episode. Thomas also was a contestant on Food Network’s cooking competition series “Chopped” in an episode that aired October 2020.