When Kevin Jonas Sr.’s grandmother got home from working 12 hours at a cotton mill, with flecks of cotton still in her hair, she’d roll out biscuits, perfectly flaky and a good two inches high. Those biscuits inspired Jonas Sr., yes, the father of the Jonas Brothers, to open an ode to his grandmother Nellie in 2016 in Belmont, North Carolina. Now the restaurant — Nellie’s Southern Kitchen — and its Southern cooking head to Las Vegas, opening as soon as spring in the former Hecho en Vegas space at the MGM Grand.
“Our family has really done a lot here,” Jonas Sr. says, referring to concerts that the Jonas Brothers performed in the city. Kevin, Joe, and Nick kicked off their Remember This tour at the Park Theater at Park MGM back in August and planned a mini-residency at the theater in 2020. “We’ve always made it a stop in the journey, even when it was early on. Vegas was one of those spots.”
The 11,000-square-foot restaurant that sits across from the entrance to the MGM Grand Garden Arena and near the Monorail and pools pays homage to grandmother, Nellie, who lived in Belmont, North Carolina until she died in 2011. And, of course, no Jonas restaurant is complete without live music as well. A front-porch setting welcomes diners while inside, the feel of North Carolina’s grassy meadows, weathered barns, and white shiplap cottages give the space life.
Those biscuits inspired Nellie’s, with a menu of chicken and dumplings, pulled pork smoked over pecan wood and stuffed on sandwiches, chicken and gravy, and a Southern meatloaf. “It’s that Southern cooking from good folks who worked hard,” Jonas Sr. says. “Working in the cotton mill was hard, especially for women.”
He recalls that she would spread flour out on the counter and mix the biscuits with “the skill of a Michelin chef” from memory, rarely measuring her ingredients. The smell enveloped the house as the biscuits baked. “The bullseye of Southern is a biscuit,” he says. “If your biscuit is great, you probably are a great Southern restaurant.”
Jonas Sr. tried every family recipe for biscuits, including his grandmother and mother’s, along with versions from the region, before settling on the recipe that generated “a ton of biscuits. I think literally a ton of biscuits,” Jonas Sr. says. Other family favorites include a sweet potato casserole with a pecan glaze over it from Denise Miller-Jonas, served as a side and a dessert. “It is a staple and has been in the Jonas family since the boys were young,” he says.
Jonas Sr. loves the chicken and dumplings from his grandmother. ”Her mother taught her, her mother’s mother taught her. This is a 100-year-old recipe that really doesn’t need your help.” He estimates it’s the number one item on the menu.
And the banana pudding also finds a home on the menu. “That makes me very happy because of all the things my grandmother made, those were the two that when I came home were waiting for me,” Jonas Sr. says.
Chicken and gravy, Southern meatloaf, and chicken and waffles with cinnamon-honey butter also arrive, along with new dishes made just for the Las Vegas location and a cocktail menu. Once open, Nellie’s plans to start with dinner, then slide into lunch and later brunch.