Oxford American brings Southern fare to Main Street
When entering the recently opened restaurant South on Main, owned by chef Matt Bell, the casual murmur of the afternoon lunch crowd was a breath of fresh air.
Taking in the sights of the dining area, tables were arranged in an orderly fashion at a comfortable capacity. On the left side is a grand piano on a low stage, and directly across the restaurant on the right hand wall was the bar, and separating the bar from the dining area was a median wall with old fashioned typewriters perched on top.
While studying the menu I noticed an unusual selection of food: Hot Chicken Liver salad, Catfish Hoppin’ John, and Rabbit Boudin. I soon realized this was not going to be an average burger-and-fries lunch. Studying the menu carefully, I looked for a safe choice – something I knew I would like – but also searched for something I thought would be a more daring choice.
The waiter came back and presented us our drinks in blue mason jars – a novel idea. After receiving his recommendations, my lunch partner and I decided to try the Catfish Hoppin John served with tasso, pickled tomatoes, and fried okra. The dish sounded wonderfully southern, and our food was presented in a timely fashion.
It was not what I expected. Instead of a large amount of food piled on the plate, there was a perfectly portioned baked catfish steak on top of ham and beans, tasso garnished with rice pudding, lightly pickled cherry tomatoes cut in half with fried okra. Presentation was a success, but what about taste?
The fish had a flavorful mix of seasoning, but a slight gamey aftertaste, which is common in catfish. The tasso and beans added a sweet meaty flavor to the mix, with a thick brown sauce, and small chunks of ham. The rice was like a pudding only not sweet, meant to be mixed with the tasso. The pickled tomatoes had a light vinegar taste, allowing a refreshing pause between flavors.
What surprised me the most had to be the fried okra. When okra is not prepared correctly it can be slimy, flavorless or both. The fried okra at South on Main was none of the above. Fried in a battered mix, it had a delicious crunch that gave no question to freshness.
South on Main is open for lunch Monday through Friday 11:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and for dinner Tuesday-Saturday 5:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. Walk-ins are accepted, but reservations are recommended to guarantee seating.
The restaurant also features live music, with tickets available for purchase through Metrotix.com
Upcoming artists to play on the stage at South on Main:
· Dave Anderson on September 5th
· Bobby Rush October 11th
· Pokey LaFarge October 12th
· Rosanne Cash November 23rd