A proper Southern restaurant in the South End
Where to Southern Proper, in the South End proper.
What for Southern food from North Carolina native Jason Cheek (Coppa, Little Donkey, Toro).
The scene Full and noisy, but not unpleasantly so, on a chilly Saturday in February. A yellow rooster sign welcomes guests as they enter what looks like a high-beamed farmhouse — and so does a blast of music. If you’re a classic rock fan, you have found Valhalla: munch hushpuppies and tear apart fried chicken to the tunes of Steely Dan and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Antique lamps and plants dangle from the ceiling, and ornate dishes are mounted on the pine walls. While this approach could call to mind grandma’s attic in a more claustrophobic setting, the space is big enough that it’s just an eccentric design quirk, stuff to stare at while waiting for rye. A healthy cross-section of the South End is here: young dudes on a date, a happy toddler on someone’s lap munching a biscuit, a swarm of ex-pat thirty-somethings in from the suburbs, marveling over their ace parking space.
What you’re eating Stuff you’ll regret in the morning — but swoon over in the moment. There’s hardly a bad dish in the bunch. Start with snacks: creamy deviled eggs speckled with paprika, airy hushpuppies and spiced honey, popovers on a peppery little pillow of pimento cheese. Then share a few entrees: fried chicken (four or eight pieces, classic or hot, or served as a sandwich topped with ranch sauce); shrimp atop smoky grits laced with gravy; greaseless catfish with tangy coleslaw. Only the bland, oversized fried potatoes are a disappointment. If you really need more carbs, opt for buttermilk biscuits — hot, crispy, weightless.
Care for a drink? There is plenty of bourbon, rye, and whiskey, plus bottles of Miller High Life. House specialties have flavor notes like “nutty and nostalgic” or “green and grassy.”
Overheard Praise, pleas, agendas. “I love when you eat fried things and they don’t make you feel like you’re eating fried things,” a woman tells her friends, picking up a piece of fried chicken. “I think I lost my phone! Can someone help me find my phone?” another woman begs, rifling through her bags. The people who took over her table turn on their phone flashlights to help search. She unearths it in a takeout container. “This is our second stop of the night. We were just at a bar, and our third stop is a birthday party,” a man tells his server as he sits down, ready to feast. “My third stop of the night is my bed,” a passerby says, heading for the door.
600 Harrison Ave., South End, Boston, 857-233-2421, www.southernproperboston.com