Monday, February 1, 2010

First Bite: 55 South

Posted By on Mon, Feb 1, 2010 at 9:42 AM

click to enlarge 55south.jpg.png

I had the chance to join another food blogger, Beth from Beth Eats for lunch at Chef Jason McConnell's new Franklin venture 55 South. Between the company and the food, there really are days when I should have to pay to do this job. No wait ... I already do. Never mind.

Named after the main highway between Memphis and New Orleans, the restaurant takes diners on a culinary tour of these two notable eatin' towns with a delicious trip through the Mississippi Delta on the way. The dining space was intelligently created from half of McConnell's hermana restaurant, Sol. Decorated in roadhouse style with a huge Gulf (pronounced "guff") Station sign hanging from the sealing and burlap tablecloths, the details are charming.

A seafood-heavy menu offers nouveau spins on traditional dishes as well as some that are exactly true to the originals. We started with JJ's Junk Chips, kitchen crisped and decadently topped with bacon, green onions and blue cheese dip. That'll be an hour on the treadmill. An order of Buffalo Frog Legs lived up to their "tastes like chicken" reputation, but the sauce was piquant and plentiful.

For entrées, Beth ordered NOLA bbq shrimp and I sampled McConnell's version of one of my Memphis favorites, bbq spaghetti. The bbq shrimp were appropriately spicy and were shelled down to the tail avoiding the usual necktie-ruining mess of peeling and eating. They were served atop a mound of creamy blue cheese grits and surrounded by a rich, dark roux that demostrated an expert's touch. I would have stolen more of Beth's shrimp had I not made the exact same meal myself the night before. And might I add, mine was somewhat less successful.

My bbq spaghetti was a surprise in that instead of the traditional pork version that I used to drive 3 1/2 hours to Interstate BBQ to buy, this plate was based around shredded beef. I guess it shouldn't have been a surprise had I read the menu a little more closely. No matter, it was an interesting interpretation of the dish, with peppers, onions and celery adding some crispy bites to the slightly stringy beef which had been cooked almost in a barbacoa style. On the whole, I liked it and took enough home for dinner the next night. Beth's shrimp went home to her husband despite my protestations.

Now that I know that 55 South ships their po boy bread in from Gambino's Bakery in New Orleans I'll definitely be making the trek down 65 to 55 to try their sandwiches out. The bread is such a crucial element to a successful po boy, McConnell's commitment is noteworthy.

If you love oysters, you might want to work through lunch and head over for their happy hour. Ice Cold Gulf Oysters are available every day for 25 cents apiece from 3 to 4 p.m. and go up by a quarter an hour until 6. Apparently this promotion has already been a smashing success as Chef McConnell told us he sold six times as many oysters as expected in their first week of operation. In addition to this raw molluskicide option, 55 South also offers roasted oysters with seven different toppings including Bienville, Rockefeller and Creole Honey Mustard.

Lunch business was booming when we dropped in. A Sunday brunch is also featured and they are planning a Mardi Gras party for February 16. Drop in and enjoy the delta goodness.

55 South

403 Main St.

Franklin

538-6001

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