South (Southern Restaurant) – Tradition Reinvented
By Kelli Gould
Meet N’Gina. She and her husband are the proud owners of the new midtown restaurant, South (weheartfriedchicken.com). I had the pleasure of sitting down with her and getting to know her as well as what her restaurant has to offer.
What used to be a market that served hot foods, has now transformed into a charming, neighborhood establishment. N’Gina told me about how their friends and family came to help them make over the place. The old floors were ripped up and the masses of duck grease were scrubbed off the walls, along with other substantial renovations made throughout the building.
When you walk in, you will see that the right side of the restaurant is dimly lit, with candles scattered around the tables, offering a softer, more formal ambiance. The left side of the restaurant is lighter and brighter, setting the tone for a casual experience.
You may associate Southern cuisine with mostly unhealthy menu items that contain excessive amounts of salt, lard, grease, butter, etc. But N’Gina explained that since everything is made from scratch at South, they are able to use fresher and higher quality ingredients in their dishes. The only thing that the freezer contains is ice and French fries. So when they say fresh, they mean it! The ingredients are not over processed and overflowing with chemicals, preservatives, and hormones. They even make their own spice rubs and mixes which allows them to control and bring down the salt content in their recipes so the food isn’t saturated in sodium.
South’s menu is split into two sections – Old School and New School. The Old School side features N’Gina’s tried-and-true family recipes. On the New School side are Chef Rachel’s Southern-style recipes that have her own personal and modernized flair.
After my talk with N’Gina, I stayed for dinner and a few of my girlfriends came to join me. I went back and forth between ordering the Old School gumbo (N’Gina’s favorite dish), or the fried chicken. I went with the chicken, and I was not disappointed. It was probably the best fried chicken I have ever had. Yes, I know that is a big statement to make and I mean it! It was flavorful and crisp, yet delightfully simple. The entrée comes with 3 pieces of chicken served on a small bed of southern style greens. If you have an appetite like mine, I recommend getting a side with it! I got the mac n cheese; it was pretty darn good and I would definitely order it again. My girlfriends ordered the shrimp and grits, gumbo and the fried chicken as well, and all of us were extremely pleased.
Next up was dessert, of course. South offers a fun dessert menu that includes traditional butterscotch pudding, fall spiced bread pudding, chocolate-chocolate pie and delicious cupcakes. We ordered a few of the items and each of them were delicious. You must try the Pere Roux cupcakes! They also have a coffee bar which is pleasing for any fellow coffee addict to hear!
I really enjoyed watching the bustling restaurant in action. It was a busy night and the energy in the place was fun and lively. Even though South does not have servers (food is ordered at the counter), the staff was very attentive to the customers. Bussers visited our table multiple times to clear plates, refill drinks, and check in on how we were doing. N’Gina was also quite busy the entire night; I saw her in multiple capacities during the few hours I was there. She took food orders, ran hot entrees out to the hungry customers, refilled drinks, cleaned up tables and put finishing touches on plates before they were sent out of the kitchen.
Something else I noticed is even though South has only been open for one month, N’Gina was already greeting customers by name and would ask if they are ordering their “usual”. N’Gina is very involved in what is going on at her restaurant and who is there. She clearly gives the restaurant an added dose of heart and soul.
Some good news for all of you fellow brunch lovers – South plans to start serving brunch in the spring! I can only imagine what creative dishes they will serve. I know I am definitely looking forward to that!
The walls are bare for now, but N’Gina plans to display an eclectic art collection on the walls in the near future.
Although South does not have a liquor license at this time; it is in the works, and they will hopefully be serving beer and wine in the near future!
Overall, I was impressed with South. The restaurant presents friendly staff, exceptional fare, and an inviting, relaxing ambiance just off of the grid’s beaten path.
Hope to see you there!