When I called to make a reservation, the chef surprisingly answered the phone and asked how I had heard about the restaurant. I told him truthfully that I'd read about it, and I had—in snippets on various blogs, with words like Southern and barbecue attached to the posts. When I visited, I was expecting casual, earnest fare, and I found that—and so much more. This isn't your typical BBQ joint.
As one of my dining companions marveled after many inspired dishes, "This is haute cuisine meets down-home." Or as the chef, Joshau Hill, explained, "It's new Southern cuisine."
The chef is a large man—think a young, hipster Paul Prudhomme—with a lovely drawl and easy smile. He claims roots in Memphis, Tennessee, and New Orleans, though he's traveled throughout this country as well as Europe and Asia. I mention him because chances are you'll meet him when you dine there. He likes to schmooze with the customers in between stints in the kitchen.
He's obviously fond of this brasserie-style setting with its handsome bar, tiled and wood floors, and upstairs lounge. The restaurant is an expansion of a similarly named restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. The mouthful of a name comes from an old jazz album from the 60's.
And don't be put off by the location in a rather barren block along North Howard Street in the Antique Row area near West Read Street. On-street parking is ample.
Once inside, pick out one of the chef's specialty drinks like the strawberry mojito, black-eyed Susan, or mint julep, and let the food fun begin. The jumbo chicken wings are a standout, glistening with sweet chili pomegranate sauce, as are the down South egg rolls.
Okay, you don't necessarily connect the low country with egg rolls, but trust me, these take fusion in a positive direction. The wrappers are stuffed with smoked chicken chunks, caramelized onions, collard greens, and sweet corn. Peach marmalade dip adds a sweet contrast.
We were at the restaurant on one of those snowy nights that sends everyone else in the city fleeing to the comforts of leftovers in their own homes, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. I'd like to think our server would be as great and attentive even in more crowded conditions.
Entrées (from $15-$30) were generous portions. There was no question we had to get one of the barbecue selections, which included three sides—in our case, fried-green tomatoes with Vidalia onion relish, a simple but stellar mac and cheese, and garlic whipped potatoes. We succumbed to the flavorful Memphis-style pulled pork, a huge mound of melt-in-your-mouth smoked meat. Shrimp and grits transcended the usual version with apple-smoked bacon, wild mushrooms, and leeks. And the Southern fried chicken platter makes you understand the restaurant's mantra, "bringing you back to the days of Sunday suppers."
Moist, tender chicken with milk gravy and a biscuit is simply better than anything Grandma turned out for a church-day repast. We should also mention that corn-bread squares joined the welcome congestion of plates on the table.
There was only one dessert offered the night we were there—cheesecake lollipops, a whimsical finish with small rounds of cheesecake coated in white chocolate and Oreo cookie crumbs on a stick, of course.