Southern Charm Kitchen

Southern Charm Kitchen

Southern Charm Kitchen

We’ve been trying to get ourselves to Southern Charm since we heard about it months ago. How could you not want to try a place opened up by the folks that gave us Reggae Shack? And if you’ve never been to Reggae Shack, you can just slap yourself in your big, pasty white face.

Southern Charm Kitchen is out on the east side, where Hawthorne Road branches off of University. This may be crossing the tracks for a lot of you, but don’t act like it’s the ghetto. Spoiler alert: it’s worth the drive across town.

We popped in a little late (let’s face it, The Man and I always run about 15 minutes behind), and our dinner pals had scored a table and ordered wine. The wine turned out to be a Cremaschi Syrah from Chile, a label I loved since a nice bottle of carménère. Tasty without being knock-out sweet. It seemed an odd combination to have very elegant wine glasses rubbing elbows with mason jars of water on our table, both alongside the Tabasco and Sriracha.

Anyhow, the building was great and the interior was clean and trendy looking, so feel free to bring your cool friends. There’s not a lot of seating and I can see it can get crowded at times. A great bonus is that it’s not wall-to-wall white people and students. Here’s the real Gainesville, folks!

Anyhow, the food… where to start. SCK doesn’t have a website yet, but they are on Facebook and in their photos are a few pics of the menu, so you can get an idea of what’s there. Since we were at dinner, we got a few nibbles and then did entrée-plus-sides. They’ve got the menu clearly marked for vegetarian and/or vegan items.

I ordered the Country Fried Seitan with mac & cheese and cornbread. The Man opted for the Country Fried Tofu with pickled greens and the sweet-n-cajun fries. Our dinner pals went all out carnivore and seemed pleased with the sea of plates and food that arrived not too long later.

Southern Charm Kitchen

The Man was taken aback by the small portion of the tofu he received, but it was eclipsed by the ginormous size of my seitan. It took effort to tackle the seitan, even with the proper flatware we were provided. It was somehow fluffier than the traditional dense seitan, but the breaded crust added a challenge (and probably prevented The Man from stealing more off my plate than he did).

My mac & cheese felt very homemade, without even the slightest glimmer of orange cheese in most restaurant versions. The corn bread sat somewhat timidly next to the huge seitan steak. It was sweet and bready, almost like cake, rather than savory and mealy like I’m used to. But it was delish with the salty mac & cheese. Even though it was clssic southern style food, it never felt greasy or heavy.

Despite the small size of The Man’s tofu, he nommed it up (possibly a little more seasoning, please?). The sweet-n-cajun fries are basically a skinnier version of the dutty fries at Reggae Shack (which are awesome, topped with a sweet/spicy/salty sprinkle). And best for last, I am not normally crazy for greens, but these were fantastic. I did barter off some of my seitan for his greens, and then stole more off his plate while he was busy talking.

There’s all kinds of other things on the menu we want to try, so we’re definitely going back. The two servers we had were super nice and helpful. And on the way out, I drooled over the cake on display even though I was hugely full.

Even if it wasn’t delicious, I would still urge you to head out east and support local business. Skip the Archer Rd / Newberry Rd clusterfuck of chain restaurants. Push past the Main St boundary and try out something new on the other side of Gainesville. I get the feeling that Southern Charm hasn’t quite nailed down their menu (that’s not a bad thing), but they do have a strong sense of their food culture and the story they want to tell you with it.

After it was all said and done, and the wine was emptied, we paid less than $35, and our dinner pals paid about the same. Vegetarian note: they clearly state that all of their vegetarian food is cooked and served on designated dishes, so there’s no cross-over issues. (Considering the amount of ‘other’ material allowed on most processed food, I’m not sure that’s a comfort. And by ‘other’, I mean bugs, rodents, hair, dirt, and other traditionally non-food materials. But that’s another tangent.)

So, seriously, go there. Eat. I’m not kidding. You might actually enjoy yourself.

Buy local, spend local, support local. It’s your community. And your community is delicious!

Southern Charm Kitchen
1714 SE Hawthorne Rd
Gainesville, FL 32641
352.505.5553

On Facebook

Open:
Tues-Sat | 11:00AM-10:00PM

[Girl21]

Fresh Off the Vine

We’d heard some rumblings about this local bakery popping up quietly in town. There were breads showing up at Ward’s and Citizen’s Co-op, farmer’s markets, and then The Top! What? How did this sneak under our radar?

I hunted them down online and stalked them on Facebook. And then like a big, wet, unexpected kiss from an overly friendly dog, I saw that they were actually opening up a storefront right across the street from Satchel’s. Boom! There you go. Vine Bread & Pasta.

I always said that the reason I wasn’t heavier on the scale was because Uppercrust was across town, and harder to get to. Now this place is right around the corner. I could walk there if I wanted to (yeah, like that’ll happen). So when The Man and I had a spare morning free, we went to check this place out.

If you’re driving there, you will miss it. It’s back off the road in a little warehouse park between the Ole Barn bar and the row of storefronts next to it. It was hot the day we showed up (check their days and hours before popping in), and it was a typical warehouse space, so as the summer warms up, it should get painful in there for working.

Anyhow, we grabbed up some pastries and a loaf, and scurried home because we hadn’t even had coffee yet (gasp!). We got a cheese croissant and chocolate croissant, a cranberry scone, and a country loaf. The croissants were tasty; the pastry dough was not as flakey as Uppercrust’s but miles better than Flour Pot. I would have liked a bit more cheese in the cheese one, maybe another kind of cheese in with the Swiss? And a great deal of the chocolate in the other croissant was designer and you could taste the quality.

The country loaf is a sourdough, and I can count the ingredients on one hand. It’s good bread. That being said, we did one set of sandwiches with it which wasn’t very successful, and then one set of grilled sandwiches, which worked out better. The bread didn’t quite hold up in its unaltered state, and required a bit of toasting or grilling to give it some structure. And the whole heel of it turned out to be a giant air pocket, which was disappointing, but happens with wild bread like this. On the whole (haha, pun intended), it was a nice, simple bread that somewhat lacked the stronger sourdough qualities we were expecting.

The scone was nice, and I’ve craved and scored a few more since our first visit. It feels like eating a bowl of oatmeal instead of a pastry. Happy belly and happy mouth–almost a meal in itself. The cranberries are a nice touch, but I’d love to add a hint of orange or lime to give it a little pop of flavor.

We’re looking to get our hands on more of the other bread styles, including the rosemary baguette. And I really, really, really want to try some of their fresh pasta. Overall, it’s good bread, and a local business, so I highly recommend trying it if you can (look at their site to see what other local businesses use their bread, like Tempo Bistro, Manuel’s Vintage Room, and Civilization).

We will be watching and tasting, and keeping our fingers crossed. This bakery has some growing to do (haha, another pun! I am so not funny), and there’s a lot of potential here. It’s fresh off the vine and might need to ripen just a little longer (okay, done with the horrible plays on words here, I swear).

Vine Bread & Pasta
1801 NE 23rd Ave, Unit C2
Gainesville, FL
352-682-8038

VineGainesville.com (their site has been down since I last checked 5/14)
On Facebook

Check site for hours and other place to get Vine products.

[Girl21]

San Sebastian Winery, St. Augustine

San Sebastian Winery, St. AugustineLet’s face it. Most Florida wines are not good. Before you get your fur all fluffed up, I do drink Florida wines. I’m not a snob. But the simple truth is that Florida is not ideal for growing good grapes, which is kind of essential for wine. Florida is hot, soggy, wet, flat, swampy, … you get where I’m going. Good grapes need, well, the opposite.

So Florida growers have relied heavily on the good old favorite, the muscadine. Which is not high on the list of designer grapes. If the muscadine were shoes, you would find them at Target next to the Isaac Mizrahi clearance rack. These would not be the shoes that make women purr and groan when they try them on in the store.

On the other hand (you heard that coming, didn’t you), if you live in the area and are having a little road trip into St. Augustine to slum with the tourists and eat good food, your first stop on the way into town should be at the San Sebastian Winery. The people that run the wine tasting are usually fun (free wine tasting!). Weekdays and slow days, they have tastings in the main room, but Saturdays or other busy days, they open up the walk-through tour which is a slightly different experience.

San Sebastian is partnered with Lakeridge, which is further south outside of Orlando. Most of the grapes they use are grown in the area, a mix of muscadine and specially bred varietals meant to thrive in the South. The wine produced tends to be overly sweet and heavily flavored. Not something you would likely serve with dinner or to wine snob friends. With a few exceptions, they both produce basically the same wines just with different labels. You can get both locally. I’ve seen them in Ward’s and Publix, so it can’t be difficult to find a bottle.

I wouldn’t buy it locally but we have fun doing the tasting whenever we drive out to St. Auggie. And we usually buy a few bottles while we’re there. They offer a port, a cream sherry, and a few dryer whites that aren’t bad chilled and mixed in spritzers or mimosas. One of our friends enjoys the muscadine wine and there’s nothing wrong with that. Really. You drink what you like. That’s the whole point.

In fact, if you’re planning a wedding or other event that requires an affordable wine that’s not going to intimidate your guests, Lakeridge has festivals a few times a year where they offer huge deals on cases of wine. Yes, we’re guilty of getting a few cases after an afternoon of drinking sweet wine and washing it down with kettle corn and pretzels.

So on your next road trip to St. Augustine, stop by San Sebastian and acquaint yourself with Florida wine. They’re easy to find. Right next to the police station. I am not making this up.

San Sebastian Winery
157 King Street
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
1-888-352-9463
www.sansebastianwinery.com
Tours run every day, check for info.

Also:
Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards
19239 U.S. 27 North
Clermont, Florida 34715
1-800-768-WINE
Check their site for wine tastings and festivals.

[Girl21]