If you follow Michael Erickson (twitter), or if you are a “Fifth Groupie” on Facebook, then you already know that Fifth Group Restaurant Group seems to offer a never ending stream of deals and events at one of their five Atlanta restaurants.
From the recent sandwich special at South City Kitchen Midtown, Tuesday’s in Spain at Ecco, to the Tomato Feast at La Tavola that started yesterday, there is a creative option almost every day of the week, and they do a good job of maintaining top of mind presence.
Recently a friend of mine moved to the Vinings area and he mentioned that South City Kitchen Vinings sent him a $20 entree coupon as a welcome to the neighborhood gift, which I think is a very cool idea. I also read about the “Screw This” $5/glass wine deal at all Fifth Group Restaurants (which ends tonight by the way), and I was craving fried chicken, so we set up our impromptu man date and headed out to SCK-V.
I went with the Chateau St. Jean Fumé Blanc, their wines are often pretty solid for a such a high volume winemaker. I know a lot of non-wine people read this site, and I like throwing out some ka-naw-ledge, so in case you didn’t know, Fumé Blanc is the same grape as Sauvignon Blanc. The term Fumé Blanc is a marketing fabrication by the late Robert Mondavi, the name inspired by Pouilly-Fume, a famous Sauvignon Blanc producing appellation in the Loire Valley. In the 60’s, California was producing many sweet red & white wines, and the labeling of this Sauvignon Blanc wine as “Fumé Blanc” was intended to indicate that the style of the wine was more along the lines of the dry versions seen in France at the time. Mondavi opened up the term for anyone to use, and he was successful in his bid to promote California dry wines and sell more vino.
Anyways, a crisp white wine is always nice on a hot day, so I enjoyed a glass while I waited for our appetizers.
We started with the fried pimiento cheese balls. Fried pimiento cheese. That’s a combination of three words that sounds like it has to be good, and it was. Crunchy and well fried, the exterior gave way to plenty of warm gooey cheese. The cream sauce on the plating isn’t really necessary for this dish, they are enjoyable by themselves, but I guess the plating would look lonely without it.
A few minutes later we received the fried green tomatoes, which had been coated with goat cheese and the same panko (guessing) breadcrumbs, served in a sweet red pepper sauce with basil. I’ve had this a few times and this is an interesting dish to me. It’s always well executed, but I could really go either way on marinara and the goat cheese. I almost want it to be a bit simpler, allowing me to taste the sour green tomato in its best form. But the goat cheese is light, its creamy texture complementing the fried tomato, and the acid in the red pepper sauce cuts through the creamy cheese between bites.
On an somewhat related note, I ordered fried green tomatoes at an unnamed restaurant near Grant Park a few weeks ago and they served us fried, ripe, red tomatoes. It was gross and it amazes me they wouldn’t just take it off the menu when they don’t have green tomatoes.
Two devoured appetizers and another glass wine later and the chicken arrived. I’m not exactly sure what type of breading they use for the chicken, but it’s very similar to the fried tomato and pimiento cheese appetizer breading, as it has a very dense, crunchy, panko-like texture, with lots of tiny sharp ridges.
One thing that surprised me was the way they cut the chicken across the breast. I’m not exactly sure why they do this, perhaps to make it more manageable with fork and knife? Well, at least one benefit is that you get to see exactly how well it was cooked through. This bird was cooked exactly right, it wasn’t the slightest bit dry, and tender all the way through. I enjoyed South City Kitchen’s fried chicken enough, but I do like it a bit more traditional on the exterior and I’m not a fan of the way it was cut. The green beans and mashed potatoes that came with the chicken weren’t very memorable either.
My buddy got the crab cake entree with fried okra and mac and cheese. The crab cakes were substantial in size, with plenty of lump crab meat. They were some of the better crab cakes I’ve had out in a while actually. Not much description needed, other than to say there was enough juicy crab, and not too much breading. The mustard aioli was a bit too pungent and overpowered the sweet crab, I would suggest eating them on their own.
I really like having South City Kitchen close by, it’s consistent, with satisfying food, and I look forward to trying more dishes. On another visit I had the pork tenderloin, and that’s probably been my favorite dish so far. My biggest gripe is that the sides come up short compared to Carver’s, as does the fried chicken, and their entree menu seems to throw themselves in that meat-and-three arena. I think that’s a tough nut to crack at SCK’s price point, so I would like to see a little more creativity and differentiation on their menu. Soby’s in South Carolina is the baseline from my youth for progressive Southern dining, and every time I go there, there is always something enticing that really pops out at me. Right now they are featuring a Cherry Smoked Beef Short Ribs in Cheerwine BBQ Sauce. How cool does that sound? C’mon SCK, I want some badass Southern food near me!