Sue Ellen: Flavours from the south coast
By Ndéla Faye | Photos: Sue Ellen
There is a new lady in town. Serving everything from shrimp and grits to suckling pig, Sue Ellen specialises in classic dishes from the southern coast of the United States. Welcoming its guests with open arms, the restaurant takes them on a culinary trip to the deep south.
Since opening its doors in November 2017, Sue Ellen has quickly found its way into guests’ hearts and established itself as the go-to venue for relaxed dinner and drinks in Helsinki. Located in the city centre, on Helsinki’s south harbour front, the restaurant is open from Tuesday to Saturday, serving meat, seafood and vegetarian dishes – all with the unique flavours of the southern United States.
The concept behind Sue Ellen is the brainchild of restaurateurs Henkka Alén, Samuil Angelov, Tommi Tuominen and Timo “Lintsi” Linnamäki, and the seed was sown years ago, when Alén was filming a food programme which entailed travelling across the United States and delving into the culinary culture of its various cities.
“We felt there wasn’t anywhere in Helsinki where diners could sit and truly devote time for eating together in a welcoming and atmospheric restaurant,” says Linnamäki, who is chef and restaurant owner. “Right from the start, we knew we wanted to offer exceptional menu options, such as oysters, crab and suckling pig. Instead of the usual burger and fries, often associated with American food, our dishes all have been influenced by the authentic flavours of the southern coastal cities of the United States.”
Straight out of the deep south
To find inspiration for their menu, the whole Sue Ellen team travelled to the southern coast of the United States. “Our menu is heavily inspired by South Carolina, and other coastal cities, and our menu features many southern classics, such as brisket, shrimp and grits, oysters, as well as our Carolina crab cake, served with okra salad,” explains restaurant manager Saana Harjula. “From that trip, we brought back with us an authentic charcoal grill and smoker, which our chefs use to create original and authentic flavours to our meats.” Harjula adds:
“We wanted to give diners the opportunity to delve into a world full of new flavours and we’re the first restaurant in Helsinki that serves food from the southern coast of the United States.”
The restaurant’s menu is compact, with a handful of options that change with the seasons. “Our menu includes tried and tested recipes, and all our dishes are made from the very best quality ingredients,” Harjula says. In addition to the à la carte menu, there are specialities available for pre-order, such as the restaurant’s pride – a whole suckling pig. “The whole suckling pig is a perfect demonstration of what we’re about: sharing tasty food among friends,” Linnamäki explains.
Armfuls of southern hospitality
Sue Ellen is housed in a former colonial merchant’s home, which retains many of its original features, including a stunning ceiling. “The building itself is one of the oldest in Helsinki, and is protected by the Finnish National Board of Antiquities,” Harjula points out. “The building’s historical feel is tangible, and it adds to Sue Ellen’s charm. The restaurant’s design oozes warmth and homeliness, helping to create an authentic southern feel.” The building’s historic features are further accentuated by vibrant décor, including colourful textiles and plants.
“The key to Sue Ellen’s unique vibe is the relaxed feel. We don’t call our diners customers – they are guests, and we truly believe in making everyone feel like they are at home when they come here,” says Harjula. “It’s not uncommon for our chef to walk around, greeting guests at the door and welcoming diners in.”
The restaurant also has a bar area that serves traditional cocktails and snacks, and has a large selection of bourbons and wines. In addition, Sue Ellen has a wine cellar, which can be hired for private parties and which seats 30 guests. The comprehensive wine list includes the best selection from America, Europe and elsewhere, which sommelier Samuil Angelov has carefully selected to complement the food.
“Sue Ellen takes its guests to the roots and relaxed rhythm of the southern states of America. Our menu invites diners on a culinary trip to the other side of the Atlantic,” Linnamäki concludes. “Sue Ellen is the complete package deal: full of southern hospitality and warmth, along with a relaxed atmosphere, great food and drink – and even better company.”
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