People have been flocking to experience entertainment and food at South restaurant and jazz parlor. This cozy and elegant spot is located just off Broad Street, at the corner of Broad and Mt Vernon Streets in Philadelphia.
I felt like this place needed to be reviewed from a southern girl’s perspective.
The restaurant is divided into three sections: dining hall, jazz parlor, and chefs counter. The jazz Parlor attracts a myriad of jazz musicians and it is hard to get a table unless you book in advance. The only reservation available when I booked my table was located in the dining hall.
Even though I was not quick enough to score seats in the jazz parlor, lively music could still be heard throughout the establishment. The noise level was loud enough to mask your conversation from other tables but not so overbearing that you needed to shout at each other to be heard.
The small dining hall was beautifully decorated. Candles perched all over the restaurant and on each table created a warm glow throughout the space. A small atrium was the focal point in the center of the room, adorned with Spanish moss and pastel colored glass bottles hanging from the ceiling, fashioned to mimic a chandelier.
Those subtle touches reminded me of my hometown of Mobile, AL, where Spanish moss is prevalent, and it’s not odd to see glass bottles hanging from trees in someone’s yard. The bottles are supposed to ward off evil spirits as they sway in the breeze clinking together and catch the sunlight.
South also had a large “Pickle Wall” with shelves that displayed their house-made pickles in mason jars. The wall provided a nice backdrop for a photo op and many guests made a point to snap a picture before leaving.
While waiting for the table, the hostess invited me to sit at the bar and have a drink. The bartender greeted me immediately and pointed to the most popular drinks on the menu. I ordered the house sangria, but they were out. Disappointed, I opted for my second choice.
The Nola Punch ($9) was a sweet, tropical, rum-punch-drink, with a dash of cayenne. It reminded me of Rebanaditas, a Mexican watermelon flavored candy that is coated with chili powder. For me, the sweet and spicy combo was delicious. The only issue I had with the Nola punch was the ridiculous amount of ice in it. My first drink tasted watered down after about five minutes. I ordered my second drink without ice and it was perfect.
We were seated about 10 minutes past our reservation time; this is the norm according to other reviews. The table for two was tucked away in a corner, although it was in close proximity to other diners and very small. There was hardly enough room for the menus, silverware, and drinks.
I ordered the blue crab toast, topped with avocado, and peppadew relish, with a lemon pepper ravigote sauce, as a starter. The dish arrived on a plain white plate with four bite-sized toasts resting on a bright orange sauce haphazardly drawn on the plate. The taste was much better than the presentation. The soft lump crab, was lemony, and tasted like Old Bay seasoning. The toast that severed as a vessel for the crab was was toasted and crunchy, and was topped with an avocado spread. Each bite was garnished with a sweet peppadew relish; The flavor of the relish was taken over slightly by the taste of crab. The contrast of textures was nice, but overall the appetizer was rudimentary. It is difficult to mess up a simple seafood dish, so South only accomplished a simple task. On top of that, the presentation did not echo the $13 price.
Our server recommended South’s signature skillet cornbread for the table to accompany our main course. The cornbread was topped with a dollop of cream cheese honey butter which was velvety and delightful, though it did not pair well with the cornbread since the cream cheese prevented the mixture from seeping into the bread. I did appreciate the cornbread when my entrée arrived, but It was not worth the $7 price.
For my entree, I ordered the beef short rib with creamed collards and Brabant potatoes, for $25. The short rib was remnant of beef bourguignon and was covered in a thick red wine demi-glace style sauce. Sadly, the meat was cooked just past the point of perfection, making it a little tough. Luckily, the crispy, deep-fried, Brabant potatoes played an excellent supporting role when dragged through the demi-glace. The collard greens were luscious, creamy and peppery, though I wish the vinegar was toned down a bit for my taste.
The wait time for food was not excessive, but we did pause the conversation to question the delay. Our waitress must have seen us looking around because subsequently, our food arrived. There was a lengthy wait for the check and the payment process was slightly off-putting.
The servers are equipped with handheld touchscreens where you pay while the server is hovering over you. If I had been completely happy with my experience this small detail would have been irrelevant, however, I didn’t like that the server could see what I was tipping. The payment felt rushed and I also felt pressured to tip more than I would have if she had not been staring at the screen.
South just barely missed the mark on every aspect of the experience besides the ambiance and music. I would recommend avoiding the weekend unless you are going for entertainment that could warrant a wait. Our waitress was friendly and accommodating, despite the wait, and the manager checked on us more than once so I’m willing to give South another chance based on that, The Nola Punch, and the almost perfect short rib entrée.