'Good old southern food' coming to Naperville

  • Bartender Martin Fuger and Managing Partner Pete Susca prepare for the opening of It's a Southern Thing. Susca and his partners, a local group that owns other businesses in the area, plan to open to restaurant Monday.

      Bartender Martin Fuger and Managing Partner Pete Susca prepare for the opening of It's a Southern Thing. Susca and his partners, a local group that owns other businesses in the area, plan to open to restaurant Monday. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • A large selection of bourbon is part of the menu at It's a Southern Thing, a Durham, North Carolina restaurant that's set to open its second location Monday in Naperville.

      A large selection of bourbon is part of the menu at It's a Southern Thing, a Durham, North Carolina restaurant that's set to open its second location Monday in Naperville. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/7/2020 10:31 AM
Editor's note: A caption with this article has been updated to clarify the roles of Managing Partner Pete Susca and bartender Martin Fuger.

It's a Southern Thing, but it's coming to Naperville.

It's a Southern Thing Kitchen & Bar is set to open for dinner service Monday, with hours running 4 to 9:30 p.m.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
It's a Southern Thing, a restaurant in Durham, North Carolina, is set to open its second location Monday in Naperville.
  It's a Southern Thing, a restaurant in Durham, North Carolina, is set to open its second location Monday in Naperville. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

The restaurant, which Managing Partner Pete Susca started in 2017 in Durham, North Carolina, is spreading north at the request of a business contact of Susca's father, a Naperville man who loves the concept and wanted it closer to home.

The restaurant is taking the former space of World of Beer at 1727 Freedom Drive, Suite 121, in an area near I-88 and several hotels that is known as a dining destination. Setting up shop here required building out a new kitchen, since the global-themed bar allowed bring-your-own-food but did not cook anything on-site.

It's a Southern Thing is set to open Monday in Naperville in the former space of World of Beer.
  It's a Southern Thing is set to open Monday in Naperville in the former space of World of Beer. - photos by Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
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"It was kind of like a closet," Susca said about the World of Beer kitchen. "My walk-in closet down in Durham was bigger than the kitchen here."

The opening of It's a Southern Thing's second location comes during the COVID-19 pandemic because the wheels were set in motion for the expansion before the outbreak began, Susca said. The restaurant took possession of the property in February and originally hoped to open in April.

It's a Southern Thing, which is set to open on Freedom Drive in Naperville, has 46 taps ready to pour.
  It's a Southern Thing, which is set to open on Freedom Drive in Naperville, has 46 taps ready to pour. - Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

"We're going to do our very best to power through the COVID until we're on the other side, like everybody else," he said.

Permits and inspections were delayed, but the gutting of the old setup and renovation into the new eventually progressed. Now, Susca said, he's ready to bring the southern hospitality and get cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Dining tables and bar stools both inside and out at It's a Southern Thing in Naperville are spaced as a COVID-19 precaution. The restaurant is set to open Monday.
Dining tables and bar stools both inside and out at It's a Southern Thing in Naperville are spaced as a COVID-19 precaution. The restaurant is set to open Monday. -

"We're most famous for our smoked wings," Susca said. "It's one of those items that we didn't expect to become famous for, but they are just absolutely amazing."

The wings are made using a vinegar-based barbecue sauce, in which they're tossed before they're fried. Susca, a culinary school-trained food pro himself, said this adds an extra crunch and a tangy taste.

"Anytime you add vinegar to anything smoked, it really enhances the flavor," he said.

Diners at It's a Southern Thing can choose between socially-distant dining indoors or outdoors as well as a bar with stools spaced six feet apart.

On the menu also will be cocktails with "punny" names, such as "Back That Razz Up," and entrees and appetizers with southern charm, such as shrimp and grits or crabcakes.

"We're just ready to serve the local community," Susca said, "and give them some good old southern food."

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