When you first get a menu at South, you'll notice "42 degrees N 83 degrees W" in the right corner. This isn't some mysterious code, rather it is the longitude and latitude of Detroit and although South isn't south of Detroit, the name could be seen as a nod to the southwestern flavors prevalent throughout the menu.
From South's information sheet, "The flavors of the menu work in harmony with the architecture. South American, American Southwest, and Mexican flavors are delicately infused into the casual fare menu, just as imagery from those same regions is infused into the modern forms of the interior design." The walls are designed to look like gently rolling sand; bright blue pillars are reminiscent of the sea.
Nearly everything on the menu has a southwesten or tex-mex spin on it. From the habanero zip sauce served with the filet to the fried Kahlua ice cream, the flare of the southwest is strong in this menu.
It seems like I eat calamari at least once a week nowadays. Gone are the days of rubbery little circles and creepy tiny mini squid. All the rage are calamari strips cut from calamari steaks. At South, thick strips of calamari are dipped in buttermilk and corn meal, deep fried and served with red jalapeno, roasted garlic and chipotle aioli.
Rather than the usually one dimensional breading found on some calamari, South's is tangy, crunchy and sweet. Together with the spicy jalapeno, the earthy, buttery garlic and creamy smoky aioli, this is definitely one of the more unique calamari dishes I've tasted.
In between your appetizer and entree or even before the appetizer, be sure to try South's signature cocktail – the Blueberry Caipiroska. Not exactly a cocktail that pairs well with food, caipiroskas are tart and refreshing – perfect for sitting on South's posh patio and discussing the latest news with your friends.
When I was served jerk chicken, I was a little skeptical. You see, I've been to Jamaica where jerk chicken is as ubiquitous as McDonald's is here. Folks are on the side of the road grilling chicken all day long. It's what they do.
Well, color me pleasantly surprised. Not only was South's jerk chicken charred perfectly (yet still juicy), the flavors were nearly spot on, too. Sure, I wish there was more kick – maybe up the scotch bonnet usage? All things considered, though, the chicken works. On top of the chicken is a sweet and herbaceous mango salsa that I could've eaten by the tub full.
Also exciting is the pile of sweet potato and plantain mash that the jerk sits atop. Plantains are banana's less sweet, starchier cousin. They lend a savoriness and texture to the
sweet potatoes taking the sweet potatoes from meh to memorable.
South is one of Birmingham's newer and more happening spots. At night, especially during the summer, the patio will be packed with movers and shakers drinking and schmoozing. Nothing wrong with that, but the food is important, too. Next time, still order your caipiroska, but don't forget to add some jerk chicken or maybe a blackened salmon sandwich to your night of drinking. | RDW
210 South Old Woodward, Birmingham 248.593.8133 • southbar.us Hours: Monday - Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.