South, at the newly opened SF Jazz Center, is Charles Phan’s second Southern-inspired restaurant along with Hard Water. Phan has been a busy entrepreneur — both places were opened within two weeks of each other in early March of this year. We had a great experience at Hard Water, so we wanted to check out South as well, thinking it’s closer to home for us in the Mission.
Phan decided to offer Southern-inspired food at the SF Jazz Center to pay homage to the birthplace of jazz. Cocktails by Master Barman Erik Adkins are also inspired by drinks of the Old South.
We started with a couple of cocktails: a Derby Cocktail (Weller 107 bourbon, lemon, honey, cinnamon, Angostura bitters) and The Battle of New Orleans (Buffalo Trace Bourbon, gum syrup, dashes of anisette, absinthe, Peychaud’s and orange bitters). Both were very good whiskey-based cocktails, and we also noticed that Adkin’s excellent ice program with clear hand-cut cubes can also be found here:
South’s menu is ideal for pre-theatre/show noshing where the small bites, salads, mains and sides are all offered in batches of five or six. The plates are on the smaller side, and we had wanted to start with the Cornmeal Fried Oysters. Unfortunately our server forgot we ordered the starter, so we ended up getting our mains faster than anticipated. The Toulouse Sausage with Red Beans and Rice is an insprired higher-end interpretation of the Southern specialty. The red beans were pre-mixed into the buttery rice flecked with herbs, and the house-made pork sausage was very good, albeit a little dry. The tasty house-made hot sauce (same as the one available at Hard Water) was a necessary addition to the overall dish:
Interestingly, the Cornmeal-Crusted Fried Chicken here is very different than the version at Hard Water. The three pieces of crispy chicken, comprised of a leg and two split breast pieces, were decent enough but it doesn’t rate as one our better fried chicken experiences. The sweet bourbon butter sauce that accompanied it helped moisten the dry breast pieces, but the hot sauce served as a good condiment:
Since it was a short dinner (not intentionally), we immediately moved to ordering a round of dessert cocktails — in this case, the classic New Orleans Vieux Carré (Rittenhouse Rye, Germain-Robin Brandy, Cocchi Vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura and Peychauds bitters):
The server brought out a comped dessert for us which was a nice gesture. A staple dessert from the South, the Butterscotch Banana Pudding was really good with broken cookie bits adding some crunch:
The decor is minimalist and industrial:
Since there was no room at the bar, we did end up sitting at a table. What we immediately noticed was there was lots of space between the tables. Perhaps it is to account for crowds at the bar during pre-show times:
South was okay, but it’s no Hard Water. We can’t really pinpoint the issue, but the atmosphere and service felt more rote than at other Phan restaurants. Charles Phan’s transition to providing Southern food has been a good one, but the better food and great whiskey program at Hard Water will keep us going there instead.
Hard Water Makes it 200 (Apr. 19, 2013)
Looking Through the Slanted Door (Dec. 28, 2012)
Finding Happiness at Wo Hing General Store (Sep. 25, 2012)
Iron Chefs and More at the Hawaii F&W Festival (Sep. 13, 2012)
All Southern Food posts on BarFlySF