If you’re familiar with Sam Talbot from his two Top Chef go-rounds, you wouldn’t call him a champion of pimento cheese, cracklins, and lard. Which is to say, he seems an unlikely proprietor of a full-blown southern restaurant—until it’s realized said establishment happens to be in Greenpoint, and that the purification of soul food staples is its primary goal.
Thankfully, the suitably dubbed “Pretty Southern” reigns in its righteousness: There’s a menu manifesto on their products’s origins, but being in Brooklyn, that’s par for the course. And guilt-sodden pleasures far outnumber the finger-wagging punishments—while there’s an admirable rotisserie chicken on offer, they expect you to go for the fried. White meat might emerge a bit drier than you’d hoped for, but the crust is everything you’d want it to be; clingy and crunchy, saddle brown and salty, brightened by just a hint of coriander in the batter and a sanding of lemon zest on top (forgo the selection of overwrought dips, and stick with the housemade hot sauce).
There’s a bit of cleaning shop amongst the sides, though none of it should especially scandalize sawmill gravy-weaned southerners. Coconut milk supplies dairy-free lushness to a family-sized bowl of grits, and green bean casserole is precisely the sort you attempt to cultivate your family with on Thanksgiving: a can-eschewing casserole of haricot vert, whole button mushrooms, and freshly frizzled (sorry, French’s) onions.
If pizza and pasta joints can court the celiac set nowadays, it seems a reasonable enough endeavor for a Deep South spot as well. It’s a straightforward swap with mac and cheese, but breads are notoriously tougher—how does Talbot fare with the almighty biscuit, which owes so much to the interplay of butter, AP flour, and baking powder? Frankly, it’s impossible not to miss the flakes, but it still seems appropriate, somehow, that Greenpoint’s southern tier counts almond flour and nutritional yeast in its arsenal.
14 Bedford Ave, (718) 349-2967