Southern Hospitality | 1460 2nd Ave. (bet. 76th & 77th Sts.) | 212.249.1001 | | |

NEW YORKERS ARE, by their very nature, skeptics. We pride ourselves in not being gullible or easily swayed. The saying, "Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining!", among many colorful others, could probably and easily be credited to a New Yorker.

So, when a restaurant opens up in this city, and its main marketing point is that a celebrity is responsible for its existence, it's cause for a Manhattan-born foodie like me to raise an eyebrow.

Such is the case with an Upper East Side Memphis BBQ joint called Southern Hospitality, A Justin Timberlake production that alit upon 2nd Avenue a few years ago with much press and fanfare. As a bar space it does extremely well. First of all because it's in a neighborhood that claims the second highest single female to single male ratio (Chelsea is first; you get my point...), most of them under 30. The JT name alone brings in the ladies.

Secondly, as the site itself boasts, it gets like of media attention for celebrity sightings. Adam Levine and Kid Rock have more than stopped by, but have hung out for hours, playing Buck Hunter and beer pong with the adoring throng, starry- and blurry-eyed, having endured hours of the whatever drink specials were on tap for that night.

I myself had only been there once before, with a young lady friend who suggested we check it out. And, yes, more than I even expected, the place is overrun with PYTs, with pockets of young men drinking flaming shots to garner courage to speak to them. Tahnee, my lady friend, and I left there hours later, drunk and happy, having totally forgotten that SH was also a restaurant, despite noticing once we walked in that the tables were mostly full with dining customers.

So months later, on this Memorial Day, I find myself looking for a place that was actually serving brunch. Some restaurants do offer brunch items during Monday holidays, although I couldn't find one while I ambled down 2nd Avenue. (I bartend at a restaurant every weekend, so I don't usually get to enjoy brunch from other restaurants.)

Then I came across the awning for SH. I figured—having just walked past Brother Jimmy's (the other, and longer, UES BBQ restaurant/bar staple)—I'd give up on the egg hunt and finally sample Memphis-style barbecue for first in a very long time. I walked in, re-familiarizing myself with the woodsy interior, decorated by numerable southern and Tennessean memorabilia and knickknacks, and adorned as thoroughly with posters for various Wing Nights/Trivia Night/Drink Special Night, etc., the branding extending even to their condiments.

As I scanned the menu, I thought of the higher scrutiny I apply to BBQ joints, not only because I grew up with some of the finest smoking, grilling, dry-rubbing, and sauce-making the Carolinas have to offer (2 parents—one a life-long chef!—, 4 grandparents, 20 aunts and uncles), but I pride myself on my own 'cueing skills.

Knowing I would get ribs, I started with the first thing that jumped out at me on the menu, the BBQ Sliders, which are made with pulled pork or BBQ chicken. Emma, my lovely waitress, allowed me to "mix 'n' match", getting two pulled pork and one chicken.

These were, surprisingly, good. Both meats were very tender, heightened "flavorably" by sweet, vinegary sauce and bright crispy slaw. The rolls soft and airy, soaking up all the tasty juices.

They were filling as well,as I started to worry if I would have enough room left for the Baby Back Ribs I ordered, with sides of collard greens and macaroni and cheese. (They were out of the baked beans, which I initially ordered.)

Again, happiness. The meat was near fall-of-the-bone yet still plenty tender, brushed with a tangy, sweet, spicy sauce, with hints of chili powder and garlic in the seasoning and a touch of vinegar,enough to wake up the inside of my cheeks.

The saucy mac 'n' cheese had great cheesy flavor, with firm pasta and homey aromas, topped of with melted cheese that added the right amount of sharpness to the smooth sauce.

The collard greens were a little less flavorful than I prefer; where my family comes from, we slow-cook collards with some mustard, a bit more sugar, and extra hot sauce, although the rendered pork fat from the ham hocks did permeate nicely through the broth.

I had planned to not finish the meal, hoping to save some to take home. But it was all good enough to want to keep eating, and I finished the whole platter in what turned out to be good time.

During that time I was greeted by three friends from the neighborhood who happened to be walking by, all of them reassured by my passing grades on the food. It is not the best barbecue I've had, but it is one of the better BBQ joints in the area (Jackson Hole will no longer be my only "go-to" for southern 'cue).

And it being Memorial Day, I was also passed by some Fleet Weekers, who I greeted and thanked for their dutiful, loyal, unnerving service and sacrifice for our country. (I couldn't shake their hands, covered in sauce. Unfortunately, I wasn't given any wet naps.)

This day especially, and every day, the servicemen and -women of our Armed Forces are the real stars...!

Bun Apple Tea!


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Southern Hospitality | 1460 2nd Ave. (bet. 76th & 77th Sts.) | 212.249.1001 | | |