"I'll remember the food this time," said the friend I brought to the Southern, who'd accompanied me when I reviewed this Wicker Park restaurant's previous incarnation, Chaise Lounge. The Southern's slightly refined Dixie-inspired fare in a casual bar setting is a much better platform for chef Cary Taylor's talents. The menu divides up items under "bar food" and "plates," aka appetizers and entrees, but there's freedom to graze. In the new rough-chic atmosphere—the main room now features reclaimed wood tables, two giant booths, and more bar seating—we ate slim, tortilla-like johnnycakes taco-style with soft, vinegary pork and sweet chow-chow (pickled vegetable relish) that was served in a little canning jar. Red pepper dressed up cheddary shrimp and grits, making for a colorful rendition of this classic. There's a perfunctory list of wines by the glass—you'll have more fun ordering from the wide selection of whiskey, old-fashioned cocktails, and southern beers like Abita's Turbodog and Southern Star Bombshell Blonde Ale.
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