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Dec 15, 2017
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Best New Restaurants: No. 3 – Southern

December 14th 10:12am, 2015

Opening a restaurant isn’t easy. Each year, hundreds give it a shot – and not everyone succeeds. Some, however, aren’t just surviving; they’re killing it. In the last year, we ate our way through newly opened restaurants from Alton to Ballwin, compiling a list of places that serve the food and drinks we can’t get out of our heads. They bring something different and exciting to the scene – and they do it damn well. While technical excellence was a must, the service and ambiance also had to win us over. Office debates nearly came to fisticuffs, but at last we agreed on St. Louis’ 11 best new restaurants of 2015. Clear your schedule and book your reservations; you’ve got a lot of eating to do.

 

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Rick Lewis ate a lot of hot chicken for you. The chef-owner of Southern, which opened its doors this June next to Pappy’s Smokehouse in Midtown, racked up the miles on his F-250 cruising to Nashville to research hot chicken royalty like Prince’s and Hattie B’s. Southern features their influence, along with a few barbecue techniques from the pros at Ubons in Mississippi, plus Lewis’ own tricks. Here, the path to Southern’s hot chicken:

Back off, buttermilk. Southern chicken marinates barbecue-style in a tub of beer, lemon juice, rice wine vinegar and cayenne pepper. The barbecue method continues with a dry rub of Lewis’ house-made riff on Old Bay, habanero powder, garlic, salt and sugar, building in layers of heat. 

Dredge, baby, dredge. Chicken is tossed in a mixture of two different starches and flour (This, Lewis insisted, is the key to breading that doesn’t slide off the entire piece after the first bite), plus more seasoning.

Fried and true. Chicken swims in corn oil until cooked through, then is sprinkled with a seasoning salt that Lewis called “magic dust.” Finally, the hot version of the fried bird takes another plunge in a vat of hot corn oil – this one glistening with cayenne and habanero peppers.

Not a one-trick bird. What makes Southern a force to be reckoned with is Lewis’ care for the whole meal. Greens rich with drippings from Pappy’s smoked chicken, flaky biscuits and creamy mac-n-cheese offer respite before you venture back to the merciless goodness of that crispy chicken.

Despite his meticulous research, the chicken’s punishing-yet-addictive heat and perfect crunch, Lewis is still at a loss to explain Southern’s overwhelming popularity. “I have no idea,” he said, grinning. “You want to know what everybody says? They just go, ‘There’s just not any chicken that’s this good around here.’ That’s what they tell me.” We couldn’t put it better ourselves.

-photo by Carmen Troesser

By Catherine Klene

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