With the approach of its 11th birthday, Iva Lee's Southern gourmet restaurant has put the finishing touches on a 1,000-square-foot addition to its bar and lounge with a VIP table and performance stage.
The new space is wide open with plush booths along the wall, hardwood floors and an extension of the classic New Orleans-style textured wallpaper and tin ceilings that characterize the rest of the restaurant.
Co-owner Lisa Wagoner, who focuses on the high-volume catering branch of Iva Lee's, handled all the interior decorating herself.
Her husband and Iva Lee's co-owner, Eric Wagoner, said he's using the stage and lounge area to showcase local musicians during the week -- branching out to classic-rock cover bands, soul and jazz combos and folk rockers in addition to the rythym and blues acts the restaurant used to book almost exclusively.
This Saturday, look for a performance by San Diego R&B singer Missy Andersen.
Also, chef Chris Starr started tweaking the menu last fall to offer seasonal ingredients and cuisines in addition to such classic Southern dishes as jambalaya and shrimp and grits.
"We've changing it up to four times a year," Starr said. "It's been pretty popular, so people are liking it."
For the rest of May, diners can still sample the spring menu, Starr said, which includes such dishes as fried green tomatoes, a crabcake and remoulade sauce, among others.
"Next month, we're going to get in all the summer fruit and stuff." he said. "We're trying to figure out and talk to my purveyors more and see what they're getting locally."
But Eric Wagoner said some restaurant favorites stay on the menu all year long.
"There are some things on our menu we would probably get hung if we took off," he said.
Going forward, Iva Lee's -- typically closed Sundays and Mondays -- plans to host wine dinners, during which staffers will pick a selection of wines from a particular vineyard and pair each with one of four courses.
Wagoner also hopes to start booking more nationally recognized acts and selling tickets for dinner shows on Sundays.