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South Street reviewed by CLAY
This was my second attempt to dine at South Street- the first was derailed by a long wait and led to a nice dinner at Bound’ry next door (read my review here). This time we tried for lunch on a Saturday and were successfully seated without delay. The atmosphere at South Street is interesting. This is supposed to feel like a coastal crab shack and dive bar, and it comes off OK- it would work better during warmer weather. One of the unique things about the restaurant is that they have live trees growing inside, and part of the space was once a patio which has been covered and walled in with garage doors which can apparently be opened during warm weather for open air dining- pretty cool.
The menu is a variety of seafood, sandwiches, and barbecue with reasonable prices- sandwiches typically under $10, entrees $10-20. The seafood menu is an interesting and tasty mix of fried plates, oysters, po’boys, and what I consider a low-country boil: mixed seafood, corn, new potatoes, old bay etc. boiled in a pot. This isn’t the place for high end fish served on a white plate; this is seafood, beach style (not a bad thing). Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to try any of the seafood items on this lunch, so look for a review part II update with some seafood items- I’ll definitely be going back to this establishment.
They offer several barbecue options, from pulled pork plates, to bbq chicken, sandwiches, and even ribs. I went with a half rack of ribs and was pleasantly surprised. It seems that many places these days are serving ribs with so little meat that a half rack barely satisfies a toddler- NOT the case at South Street. You definitely get your money’s worth on the ribs- this half rack was large and very meaty. The meat was tender and flavorful, and the dry rub added some nice flavor as well. They were served with sauce on the side which was tangy and sweet and complimented the dry rub nicely. While this may not be the most famous or “best” bbq/ribs in Nashville, it is certainly good, and you get lots of variety on the menu for those who don’t like bbq. They will bring bread and cole slaw to the table for you to enjoy while you wait for your meal, so when you order, try another side since you’ll be getting slaw for free. I’d stay away from the tater tots though. They are “home-made” but don’t waste your side order on these. They looked like a cross between oversized tater-tots and round hushpuppies, but they were not very crispy on the outside, and the inside was all mush. They also tasted more like undercooked hushpuppies- try another side instead, they have many to choose from.
While the ribs were very good, the grilled chicken sandwich was just average. This is a restaurant staple that so many places simply don’t give enough time or attention. If you’re going to offer a grilled chicken sandwich for those who may not be feeling adventurous, take the time to make it memorable. While I won’t let the chicken sandwich have too much impact on my review, I will say don’t have high expectations for this particular dine-out staple.
Overall, the food was tasty and the portions sizable, the service was good, prices were reasonable, and the atmosphere was good and would have been even better in nice weather. This is a good place for a casual evening with friends or a relaxed lunch- not the place for valentine’s dinner or a wedding anniversary celebration, but it knows its role and hits its mark accurately. 3 stars with a recommendation to give it a try. I’ll update the review after my next visit if I’m able to sample any of the seafood.
UPDATED REVIEW (6/29/2011):
I went for a second visit and tried the seafood this time. The seafood was a disappointment. The “steam pot” was much smaller than anticipated, and none of the seafood, steam pot or otherwise, seemed very fresh. On top of that, the chicken finger appetizer was very weak. It was just some fried chicken tenders which looked like they could have come from a bag at Kroger on a plate. No presentation, definitely frozen, and not very good. No one was especially pleased with their food, and overall I’d probably give this second visit 1 or 1.5 stars.
Keeping both visits in mind, I’d have to say that South Street deserves an overall rating of 2 stars. They do, however have a very nice open air upstairs bar called the “tree house”, which is worth trying.