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Aug 02/13

South on Main: Elevating a Mess of Greens Posted by: Dan | 0 Comments

While pushing my spoon through the surprisingly dense slice of chocolate-peanut butter pie at the newly opened South on Main, my first thought was “Oh, it’s good to be Southern.”

After a bite of the rich, creamy dessert my second thought was far too salacious — and silly — for civilized company, but I will say it involved having that pie’s children.

Our lunch at South on Main was indulgent to say the least. Executive chef and owner Matt Bell’s kitchen succeeds at elevating Southern fare to a gourmet level. This isn’t the ham hocks and greens of your childhood — not that there’s anything wrong with that. This is buttery drum fish with a crisp exterior on a bed of hominy and marinated avocado. This is vegetables and dumplings in a creamy broth. This is spears of okra that get a vinegar bath before they’re fried. It’s grilled ribeye on roasted potatoes and watercress.

But it’s also down-home dishes like chicken salad, glazed carrots, chicken liver mousse and grilled cheese and tomato soup.

It’s the sort of food that’s so good, it inspires exclamations of “you must try this!” and weighing the consequences of bad table manners in public.

I asked the friend to my left how she liked her fish and avocado and she replied, “Can I lick the plate?” I realized I’d just been lapping the avocado from my fingers  … and nobody batted an eye.

Across the table, the catfish and tasso black-eyed peas stole the show. Honestly, those peas had a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a slight heat like summer clouds. Like after a taste of four — FOUR — peas I began to fantasize about a bathtub full of them. Then I scaled back a bit. I pictured myself in a pot of those babies with an iced tea in one hand and a giant ladle in the other. I would never exit that vat of heaven. Never. Well, all right, maybe eventually. But it could occupy vast portions of a Friday night.

And Sweet Southern Jesus, do not skip the desserts, y’all. You get three options: Bar, Jar or Pie. Today’s list: a jar of Oatmeal Cream Pie with Loblolly ice cream and fig topping , Buttery Finger Bars and the aforementioned chocolate pie. We made conversation while digging into our entrees, but when dessert rolled around we all fell into minutes of quiet reflection. Things got downright uncharitable for a moment, but a few bites in, we warmed up to sharing again.

All of this white-plated, taste-bud tantalization happened in a classic Southern atmosphere. Cream-colored walls, dark wood accents, chairs with that lattice-work pattern you remember from grandma’s house, huge windows, and tea refills poured from white ceramic pitchers into pretty blue mason jars. It’s bright, beautiful and comfortable.

Granted every new restaurant has its missteps, but ours never materialized in the service or the food. Everything we ordered came out as sublime as it sounded. In fact, our experience could be summed up with the words of our editor, Amy Bowers, “This is my new favorite restaurant.”


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