First Look: South
Despite having an extremely un-Googlable name (you try typing “south restaurant Philadelphia” into the search field and let me know how it goes), South–the latest offering from restauranteurs Robert and Benjamin Bynum and chef Paul Martin has opened on North Broad Street. The Bynum brothers, previously involved with jazz venues Warmdaddy’s and Zanzibar Blue, as well as Chestnut Hill’s Paris Bistro and the recently shuttered Heirloom, are sticking to what they know with this one: homey food and live music.
They have transformed the sprawling, former Route 6 space into a venue that now boasts live jazz six nights each week in the sound-proofed jazz parlor, plus a separate bar, dining room and chef’s counter in restaurant’s main floor. Many of the Route 6 fixtures remain, but the brothers Bynum have warmed the space that once housed Stephen Starr’s pan-coastal seafood shack with southern touches. Formerly seashell-festooned white clapboard cabinets now contain rows upon rows of pickle jars filled with a rainbow of preserves: cauliflower, beans, peppers, asparagus, and onions. The array would cause any seasoned pickler to initiate a respectful slow-clap at the volume and array, which becomes especially impressive when you learn that these jars these aren’t purely for show.
Pickles appear, alongside benne seed pocket bread (with chef Paul Martin’s pimento cheese) on South’s dinner menu. It’s a more rustic plate than some of the other early in the meal offerings: heirloom tomato salad with beets, farmer’s cheese, and peanut chutney; fried oysters crusted in Anson Mills’ cornmeal and served atop sautéed spinach with herb saint butter and green tomato jam; or the positively fancy quenelles of chicken liver mousse atop pumpernickel croutons with crispy chicken skin and golden pickled sunchoke relish.
Chef Martin, a Louisiana native, brings Southern ingredients into play on the entree side as well, promising a take on his mother’s gumbo recipe, as well as other primary plates to showcase the flavors of the American south. His version of shrimp and grits is three enormous Carolina white shrimp over Anson Mills grits with lobster, for good measure, and caramelized “trinity,” the South’s mirepoix of green pepper, carrot, and onion, and milliton squash stew. The restaurant is bringing in wreckfish from the Carolinas as well–a dense, meaty white fish not unlike halibut, which Martin is serving with butter beans, tomato, and crawfish fricassee. For meat lovers? Heritage pork with spoon bread, creamed collard greens, and sorghum molasses; or duck breast with yellow eyed peas and golden chanterelle mushrooms.
The dessert menu is a work in progress, but expect composed plates of crumbles, crumbs, and dabs employing classic flavor combinations like bourbon pecan pie, berry shortbread or Mississippi chocolate cake with milk chocolate mousse, sweet cream gelato, and pretzel praline.
There’s also a separate bar menu of snacks like hushpuppies and pork boudin croquettes, and sandwiches including an alligator po’ boy or a Pat LaFrieda beef burger with more of that pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes.
Google or no, Southward-ho.