Glory, halleluiah and yee-haw!
The South has risen again — right here in South Minneapolis. Revival is the new home of some of the very best Southern home cooking north of the Mason-Dixon. It’s newly birthed by South Carolina-born hero of the kitchen, Thomas Boemer, who also helms Corner Table, just down the road.
This round, in CT’s former, and still-cramped and tiny site, he’s celebrating the fare his grandma taught him. Leaning over the diner counter stools we nabbed (the wait for a table itself make it wise to bring a shaving kit and change of clothing), the chef parsed his born-again moment, when fried chicken evolved from more than a bucket from KFC. “Well, don’t just sit there,” Grandma directed her kitchen crew of one: “Help me.” Result: the city’s most exciting dining op thus far in 2015.
Gnarly mounds of the aromatic bird are the best-sellers here (2 pieces $7.50; half bird $15; whole $27): chicken as the Good Lord meant it to be eaten: buttermilk-brined, then emerging virtually grease-free from the fryer, with a crisp, ethereal façade yielding to juicy, firm-tender, true-flavored meat. Baptize it, if you wish, with choice of house sauces — one smooth and hot, the other boasting a vinegar tang.
Yes, it’s that good. But, despite all the hoo-ha, not the best item on the menu. Those honors rest with both of the other entrees we summoned (five options, $14-18). The pork shoulder is a celestially deep yet simple short course in Carolina cooking: robustly-flavored, braised-till-tender meat paired with deeply-green collards, sweet-sour bread-and-butter pickles with a sexy crunch, and a cushion of white cheddar grits, almost elegant in their smoothness — a far remove from the instant, clammy version of this Southern masterpiece.
Another combo plate seemed made in heaven, too: sweet-hot andouille sausage married with hoppin’ john (black-eyed peas and rice) topped with a fried egg. That egg arrived exquisitely timed so its yolk might irrigate the plate and the cadre of tender, corn-sweet hush puppies that tumble across it.
But wait! First cast your eyes onto the sublime list of starters (most $5-8). I’ll be back to make my way through those alone. To begin, we relished the fried green tomatoes — tangy, near-transparent rounds bearing a tissue-thin batter coating, ready to anoint with a spicy remoulade that’s worth the drive itself. As are the chicken livers — a mound of batter-fried goodness set upon Texas toast with a perky boutonniere of sunflower tendrils. Next time: the pigs’ ears. The johnnycake. The pimento cheese. And another order of the biscuits — state of the art (and state of Grandma) renditions, served with sorghum butter. Or a pork sandwich. A side of mac and cheese. Or — mission impossible tonight (already enough doggie bags to fill the backseat of the car), a slice of chess pie.
Wine? Sure, some. But here, you wanna drink beer. From the trio on tap I savored the Founders stout from Michigan, while my pal did the same for local Bauhaus in its tony can.
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