Hot damn I love living in the South.
If we met, you probably wouldn’t guess that I’m a born ‘n raised southerner by my accent (or lack thereof), my preppy clothing, or my complete lack of interest in hunting or motorsports. But, when it comes to food, I’m a southern boy at heart. Admittedly, I’m quite biased. I know that every respective region America has their culinary merits, but for my money, you can’t beat upscale southern comfort food.
Not surprisingly then, I’ve been foaming at the mouth to get down to the newly opened Empire State South. The “meat and three” carries the pedigree of Chef/Owner Hugh Acheson (of Five & Ten and The National in Athens, Ga) and Chef de Cuisine Nick Melvin. While I’ve never had the opportunity to try Acheson’s Athens restaurants (though they both come highly recommended), I’ve been a fan of Melvin’s food for a while now.
I snuck away from work long enough today to grab a solo lunch at the bar, so I plan to do a more comprehensive review after a few shots at dinner. But things are off to a promising start.
I arrived around 12:30, and there was a formidable wait for a table. Fortunately, being all by my lonesome, the completely empty bar had my name all over it. The bartenders were friendly and informative, and the food arrived very quickly. I was in and out in thirty minutes.
*Side note: They have a fan-freakin’-tastic bourbon selection. I intend to put a serious dent in their stock of Blanton’s and Four Roses Single Barrel on my next visit.
I opted for the Super-Food, which is essentially a deconstructed hanger steak salad. This is a spread of perfectly medium rare hanger steak, yard beans, lettuce, baby carrots, beets, faro, and avocado buttermilk dressing. Word of advice – they didn’t ask me how I wanted my steak done, and it came medium rare (as any good steak SHOULD). But if you are squeamish about your doneness, you might want to specify.
Or, better yet, learn how to order steak properly. Just sayin’.
The meat was great, but the assorted veggies stole the show. I cleaned my plate of the baby carrots and yard beans. Shockingly, the farro was my favorite part of the dish (ok, technically farro is a grain). Using a simple base of garlic and shallots, Melvin/Acheson packed a ton of flavor into an otherwise bland ingredient.
Though the Super-Food is a meal unto itself, I couldn’t pass up the chance to try at least one of the sides. And the southern boy in me couldn’t avoid opting for the collard greens w/ Ham hock.
These were delicious. Nothing revolutionary, but there is only so much that you can do to classic collard greens before you start screwing them up. Though I wouldn’t have minded a little hot sauce thrown in there, the rich ham broth that the greens stewed in was fantastic. I didn’t leave a scrap behind.
This was one meal and just one dish, so I’m holding back judgment at this point. But the lunch was more than enough to convince me that I had to come back for dinner (and some of that beautiful bourbon).
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