Deep-fried and golden



2005 11th St.

Good for: Southern food 'n' fixins

Notable dishes: fried chicken

Truly phenomenal fried chicken—the kind with a juicy interior sitting under a perfectly seasoned and crispy shell—is the golden fleece of the food world. It’s the stuff of legends and nearly impossible to find, especially when you’re on the West Coast of the country.

So I gave another sigh when I heard for the first time that I needed to head to the new restaurant, South, on 11th Street. By the second recommendation, I was intrigued. By the seventh, well, I was committed to investigate.

This humble open-seating restaurant is a delight when you enter, as a friendly vibe and addicting aroma seduce the senses. Diners will just want to sit down and linger as long as possible in the airy and welcoming space.

The food focus here is Southern food, something that many California restaurants attempt and usually bomb at. The menu is familiar Southern with a dash of Creole mixed in—think greens, mac ’n’ cheese, corn bread, gumbo, barbecue, catfish, et al.

We started the night with the corn bread. I grew up with a sweet, cake-like corn bread. Tasting South’s, I found myself suddenly transported back to a sweltering Missouri summer in my grandma’s kitchen. Big, hearty and slathered with honey. The table was all a-titter.

The cheese and grits were perfectly executed if terribly underseasoned. A brush fire of hot sauce seemed to somewhat remedy the lack of salt, but left the table disheartened nonetheless.

A bowl of gumbo seemed promising, but arrived soupy with a thick layer of oil resting atop it. The flavor was hot. As in the only discernible flavor at all was cayenne pepper. If fried chicken is the golden fleece of food, then gumbo is the golden apple.

The barbecue platter proved to be a welcome tray of food. South’s pulled pork slathered in barbecue sauce is some of the best I’ve had in town. The succulent cuts of smoky brisket were equally impressive. The offensive hot links, however, were reminiscent of Oscar Mayer and largely ignored. Props, though, on the house-made barbecue and mustard sauces. I would happily stock my shelves with bottles of either one.

And the fried chicken?

My fellow Argonauts, the golden fleece has been found! If I could eat it every day, I would, and my days on this earth would be fat and happy.

While South has its game when it comes to chicken, dessert is simply inexcusable. A butterscotch pudding arrived terribly curdled and gritty—no chef with a tasting spoon nearby should have sent it out. The shortbread cookie that assaulted us tasted of raw flour and lacked the fat needed to give it flavor and body. A chocolate pie lacking in any impactful chocolate flavor was met with a resounding “meh.”

The latter arrived doused with a Chantilly cream so beaten it needed to file a police report. (Note: For your restaurant education, the difference between Chantilly cream and whipped cream is $5.)

The hits are hits and the misses are misses at South. I fear had I not had dessert the rating would be higher, but so it goes. In the end, I encourage diners to venture forth to South and gorge themselves on fried chicken and cornbread. Those who do shall not be disappointed.