TravelNoise: Pretty Southern, New York City

Southern food in NYC isn’t that crazy of a concept — you can typically find some bomb fried chicken if you know where to look. But what is challenging is finding a down-to-Earth place where you can have the full experience. And by full, we mean all the fixings on top of the bomb fried chicken.

Pretty Southern, New York

Pretty Southern came on the scene early this year and positive reviews haven’t stopped pouring in since its opening. You know a place is good when you hear people say “That place has soul” and, of course, my favourite phrase: “There was too much food.” We just had to go.

I made a dinner date with my best southern friend, and we trekked to Greenpoint in giddy anticipation. Pretty Southern looked more than promising.

Sitting pretty on the corner of Bedford and Lorimer, you may mistake the place for a cute coffee shop, but we kept a keen eye on the signs. We weren’t messing around tonight. Upon walking in, I caught an overwhelmingly delicious whiff of crackling oil and smokiness as we looked around at the no-more-than-20-seater spot. Dozens of Artform magazines were stacked on top of a portable speaker, out of which country music played. Tea lights donned each cafe-sized marble table and glistened against the exposed brick. On the other wall, pearl cactus wallpaper elevated the restaurant’s otherwise laid back atmosphere.

Our waiter greeted us casually and showed us to a nook by the window. He pushed two tables together, assuring us we would need the room for all the food they were going to bring out. We swooned — they had plans for us, no menus required. We did get a look at the spread, and we trusted him to steer us in the right direction.

For drinks, we both started with a cabernet ($9), smooth and generously poured in big glasses. We just barely savoured the second sip when the first dishes started to arrive: watermelon, watermelon radish, mint and goat cheese salad ($14) and fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese in a mint vinaigrette ($14). The watermelon salad was refreshing yet zingy from the radish, a perfect start to the meal, while the green tomatoes were nicely crisped and balanced by the mint vinaigrette.

In seemingly the next moment, the next and biggest round came out. This time, collard greens with tasso ham ($10), house-made biscuits with maple bacon and pimento cheese ($8), skillet mac and cheese ($10), and the best for last: what our waiter called a “mountain” of fried chicken ($7 for a breast, $6 for a thigh, $4 for a drum and $3 for a wing. We got so much, we literally cannot even estimate). The greens were smoky and cooked to the ideal doneness, so totally not wilty. The biscuits were thick and slathered with pimento or stuffed with a decadent, almost candied bacon. The mac and cheese — can we pause just to take a moment of silence for how stupidly good this mac was? The spiral pasta was cooked to al dente, tossed in the creamiest, cheesiest sauce and topped with fried onions.

The chicken deserves its own paragraph, if I’m being honest, because it may have been the best I’ve ever had. Upon first bite, I looked to my friend for approval. Between bites she said enthusiastically, “This is so good.” The fry mix wasn’t oily at all, but rather just a great crisp with tender, juicy chicken beneath. We left maybe two pieces in the basket.

Something we noticed quickly was that nearly every dish had just a subtle sprinkling of lemon zest on top, which worked so well with the smokiness. The theme tied each food together extremely well despite their overall separate flavours.

We weren’t sure if we had the room, but we needed to try at least one dessert. It took no time for us to choose the strawberry shortcake ($9), which seemed like a safe, light choice. When it arrived, it was fairly deconstructed and surrounded by sweet maple whipped cream. The strawberries were slightly tart, which balanced the cream, and shortcake pieces were dispersed throughout, acting like more of a trifle. We had a few bites each, looked at each other and said, no more.

What we experienced at Pretty Southern went beyond just good Southern food. The flavours of the dishes flowed into one another so smoothly, there was not one unnecessary bite taken. It was a total reconstruction of what we know Southern food to be. My guest and I left feeling…enlightened and still dreaming of lemon zest. Pretty Southern, you really did us in. We’re hooked.

Address: 14 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222
Telephone Number: 718-349-2967

Sami Allen

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