This culinary jewel is, like many others, tucked in the Pearl and shares the same building with Hotel Emma (another awesome place). The Pearl district of San Antonio is crawling with eclectic, fun restaurants so it can be a bit overwhelming to eat there. It’s also an up and coming residential and shopping area, and host to a slew of events which can make parking tricky at times and make any visitor feel lost. So tips on successfully making your way: 1- go with a friend who’s been there. (if you don’t have a friend, keep reading). 2- Don’t go during peak meal times. Think brunch or early bird dinner. 3- Check out their events page and make sure you don’t run into a massive show, festival or event. 4- farmers markets are on weekends and draw huge crowds.
We hit dinner at 5 on a Saturday, which was perfect because we did not make reservations. If you plan on going later than that, you’ll need one. Mostly because Southerleigh is fairly new and gaining a huge amount of traction recently. I have heard amazing things about lunch, so go for lunch if you’re not into having to make reservations.
We loaded up our small table with a few apps and plenty of family style dishes. We had to make sure we had enough for the two of us. We got the crispy fried chicken cracklins which were devilish, crunchy, fatty (not greasy) and good. Tossed with a sweet honey-crystal hot sauce. It won’t make you feel healthy, but it will hit all those flavor hot spots.
We also got this wood fired pretzel with beer cheese and sweet and spicy mustard. The sauces were dynamite and perfect with this salty beauty. A note about beer cheese. I adore it and it’s a part of my Kentucky heritage. And Southerleigh is housed in a still operating, revitalized brewing house. They brew craft small batch beers about 3 days a week and they’re of course found in some of the food offerings adding flavor and punch.
Their dishes are meant to share (is there really any other way to dine?). And you grab a couple of sides to fill the table gaps in-between. We filled our gaps with jalapeño white cheddar grits and gulf crab spiked mac & cheese. This little kettle of noodles, sauce and crab was explosive and rich. Crab was great and the noodles had perfect texture. The sauce was thick and creamy and left that thin cheesy layer on your lips. The grits were dangerous as well and one of my favorite parts of the meal. The jalapeños were not spicy but gave tons of flavor to the stout and creamy grits.
We settled on the Marinated Bandera Quails with beer battered pork sausage and stuffed morel mushrooms AND the fried snapper throats with remoulade and sweet pepper aioli. Sheesh with the fancy food words already. I love when chefs open restaurants that focus on local flavor and cuisine and then still throw french culinary words all over the menu. Texas definitely has French Cajun influence so maybe thats why 😉 Remoulade – classic French condiment with many variations, usually mayonnaise based. With fish, you might as well have called this tar tar sauce. It was creamy and snappy. Great with the snapper. Aioli – literally means oil and garlic, but is usually found as an emulsification like mayo and seasoned depending on the chef. This one had sweet pepper and was also good. I went back and forth constantly battling which one to dip, and sometimes did both! When we got it to go, we made sure they packed up the sauce! Fancy words or not, it was tasty and apparently Chef Balfour has a knack for sauces.
The quail was flavorful and satisfying. Not the most tender meat FYI, but it was well done. It might have been slightly outshined but the sausage stuffed mushrooms. The sausage was flavorful but gentle as to not drown out the delicate awesomeness of the morels. The crispy on the outside was a perfect texture balance.
Snapper throat sounds weird, but it was really just the delicate collar or jowl (as in pork jowl, if that helps) of the snapper. The fish was fresh and fried, hiding little pockets of white, tender meat for you to find and dip away. They were fun, beautiful and good. Not a first date food. Unless you don’t care to yank open and dig out fish meat on your first date (then you’re awesome). This was a refreshing break from the food trend going around to just pile 20 delicious ingredients sky high on a plate.
Their menu changes often but you can usually find the snapper and their famous fried chicken on there and both are excellent. If by chance you can’t get a table there, you really can’t go wrong with any of the places near by. I’m only one person, but I’ll soon get you reviews to all of them. Happy dining friends!
Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery (136 E Grayson St, San Antonio, TX // 210.455.5701)