As a new transplant and food blogger in the Triangle, I was super excited to be invited to my first media dinner at It’s a Southern Thing this past week. I was nervous because I didn’t know a soul, but as soon as I walked in and saw fellow bloggers (like Linda and Nancy) positioning dishes in the best light and snapping away with their phones and SLR cameras, I thought “It’s my tribe!” I ended the night with some amazing foodie contacts — and hopefully new friends to eat with!
Amber, our host for the night and a fellow northeast transplant, was the first one to greet me when I walked into the back room. Despite the grey skies and steady rain, light still flooded the space, making for some great shots throughout the evening. The bar area and dining room were pretty populated, so business is clearly quite brisk! The servers were really engaging throughout the event — answering questions, taking drink orders, and making sure all of us had what we needed to get the most out of the restaurant’s new menu.
Not too long after I sat down the plates started floating in. The fried cauliflower and pulled pork nachos came out first. As soon as everyone wrapped up their shots — ranging from super carefully staged to very au naturel (cough cough) — we dove in. The cauliflower worked out great because the florets were quite sizeable, which made you feel like you were biting into something substantial rather than simply breading. Plus you were getting your vegetables for the day! The nachos were an even bigger hit with textural and flavor contrasts coming from the super tender pulled pork, the creamy cheese sauce, the pickled red onions, and the spicy jalapenos. If you could get all of that onto a single chip (or two or three), your tastebuds were certainly satisfied.
The shrimp and crawfish po’ boy was up next. We all thought the baguette was a bit unwieldy and hard to cut ourselves, so perhaps it would’ve been better to have a professional divide up the sandwich in the back rather than have us amateurs hacking at it with dull knives at the table. Another option would’ve been to use a less intense bread vehicle. Logistical challenges aside, the filling was quite good and the remoulade was pretty divine. The sweet pickles offered a touch of acid and tang to cut through the fried creamy goodness, but could’ve been even more prominent in terms of flavor notes.
As a fish lover, I was excited to see the pan seared red snapper come out, especially sitting on a bed of vegetables. I’m not a big fried food eater generally, so I was grateful to have this as a foil to the heavier po’ boy. The snapper was well-seasoned and prepared, with a great crisp on the exterior and a soft chew on the interior. There was just the right amount of creamy adobo sauce to go with each savory bite, and the vegetables provided some solid crunch, especially with the green beans being noticeably al dente.
Jaime’s BBQ 1/2 chicken arrived at the table with a wonderful char. Others may hiss at black spots, but I love seeing my food and knowing that it’s spent some serious time on the grill. That said, the white meat was decidedly drier than the dark meat. While this is generally the case with chicken, it simply highlights how critical it is to manage the heat as well as the time on the heat. I definitely reached back across the table to grab several more bites of dark meat, which had a nice infusion of salt and seasoning.
Since I’m essentially allergic to alcohol (it’s quite tragic, I know), I didn’t partake of any amazing cocktails. However, I ended the night on a sugary high note with the strawberry bourbon “shortcake” biscuit. My new friend Fran, a Durham native, agreed that the biscuit was definitely denser than a normal biscuit, but reasonably named as a “shortcake” biscuit. The combination with the strawberries and chantilly cream made for a lovely not-too-heavy way to end the evening, though it was hard to tell the strawberries had been soaked in bourbon, even with my alcohol-sensitive palate.
All in all, I had a great time with a great meal and some really great people. Cheers to everyone who shared their table — and plenty of Triangle recommendations — with this new girl in town! And cheers to Amber for a great event — I’m looking forward to seeing what more this new menu holds.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to an event or to try a restaurant or certain products. This meal or items are usually comped, as this was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.
Hoi Ning Ngai is the Associate Dean for Student Affairs at The Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill. She’s a recent transplant to the Triangle, a native of New York, and a lover of all things bacon, ice cream, and Paris. Follow her life adventures on Instagram at @hoiningngai!