Hospitality delivered in heaping helpings
By Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Yes, the jambalaya, shrimp and grits and mint juleps build a case for the name on the facade. But what the co-owner of Southern Hospitality, Anthony Lupo, wants his customers to know is that personalized service is as much a priority as what appears on the menu.
For sure, genuine hospitality flavored each of my visits to the new-since-January restaurant in Adams Morgan.
“Is there anything else I can get you right now?” asks a genial server. She has just dropped off a strapping platter of boneless fried chicken, collard greens and macaroni and cheese that looks like enough fuel for a party.
“A second stomach?” I reply.
When she comes to take my plate, the server lets me know with a wink that she hasn’t forgotten my request: “I looked all over here, but I couldn’t locate another stomach.”
Another of the restaurant’s selling points can be seen from blocks away: a front patio designed with everything. There are fans for hot weather, lamps for cool days, a sturdy awning to ward off rain. It’s a great stage for people-watching at 18th Street and Columbia Road NW.
The restaurant’s interior is nice enough, but the combination of brick walls, granite bar and long chandeliers can’t compete with a breeze and a beer on a linen-draped table outdoors, which is where I’ve parked myself. (A second floor is available for private functions and overflow.)
And the food? Downtown’s Vidalia doesn’t have to worry about competition from Southern Hospitality, which Lupo, who helped open three Circa restaurants in the area, co-owns with his brother Peter. The guys hired Hugo Bonilla, previously of the original Busboys & Poets, to whip up a menu that also finds room for hummus, fried calamari, burgers and rack of lamb.
Southern Hospitality’s fried chicken is pounded thin and breaded as if it were a schnitzel. The accompanying greens lack tang, but the mac and cheese is as gooey and soothing as you want it to be. Pulled pork barbecue is so soupy it ought to come with a spoon. And where are the smoky notes and the crisp bits in the sandwich? Shrimp and grits are decent; I’d lose the chopped asparagus, though. Of what I tried, the dish that most resembles its inspiration is probably that meaty jambalaya, each bite teasing with gentle heat.
Expect heaping helpings. One of Lupo’s goals, he says, is to make sure his patrons “leave full.”