126 Union Street, Columbia Street Waterfront District
On a recent sunny evening, at a table between the open front door and the bustling kitchen, a little girl was asleep—passed out, her tiny temple pressed against the tabletop beside a half-eaten bowl of macaroni-and-cheese. “This has never happened before,” her mom said, laughing. The girl’s serene face made the perfect advertisement for Brooklyn Southern’s food-coma-inducing menu, which covers all the rib-sticking bases: shrimp, grits, gumbo, chicken fried steak. The mac n’ cheese—rich with-out being overly heavy or stringy, with golden goodness clinging to each tender elbow noodle—is the ultimate kid food. For the little folks who didn’t conk out mid-meal, a circular path around an old birdbath in the backyard made a fine running track, a safe distance from the handful of umbrella tables in the restaurant’s glorious garden. In the corners, glazed planters were overflowing with dahlias and petunias, and overhead a grand trellis dripped with wisteria. A 10-seater tucked away in the back of the yard seemed like the perfect spot for a grown-up birthday celebration. (As you plan your next get-together, you may want to warn guests that this place is cash-only.)
Classic Creole, Cajun, and Southern soul foods are the focus here, and despite the place’s name, you won’t find many nouveau-Brooklyn embellishments to the simple and straightforward fare. And you can’t go wrong with their pleasantly plain fried chicken. Served in baskets with coleslaw and pitch-perfect hush puppies, each piece of fried chicken was juicy, crisp, and enjoyably no-frills, save the couple of caraway seeds that found their way into the batter, giving a little burst of rye bread-flavor every few bites. There was nothing delicate or fancy about the po’boy roll that enclosed a generous portion of meaty oysters filled with bold, brackish flavor. The complimentary corn bread, accompanied by foil packets of butter, was satisfyingly sweet and salty. Herbivores could make a meal out of the vegetarian gumbo or a sampling of meat-free sides, but we wouldn’t recommend the kale salad, dressed in balsamic, dotted with syrupy raisins, and piled high with some oddly funky grated cheese.
The beverage selection included a handful of red and white wines and a single beer on tap; we were glad they strayed from the Southern theme for New York’s own Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold. This smooth and balanced Beglian-style pale ale made the perfect pairing for a satisfying summertime meal. After a couple of rounds, it became clear that the little girl snoozing at the front table had the right idea.
Photo by Austin McAllister