Happy Hour with a Southern Charm ;)

 

Southern Charm

Happy Hour this last Friday started as usual with a text coming from the ether suggesting we start by meeting at Tall Paul’s downtown. It was Maestro who sent it and he suggested meeting around 4:30. You may have seen me mention Tall Paul’s before in another blog post. Their micro-brewery (Alligator Brewing) is one of the first micro-breweries in Gainesville and is located in the center of downtown. Tall Paul’s is the bar where the micro-brewery is located and is a hot spot for a lot of folks who visit downtown at night. They will frequently feature live local bands on the weekends.

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I didn’t get there until closer to 5. The Maestro already had a draft sitting in front of him and greeted me as I approached the bar. He was working on a Lagunitas Brewing “A Little Sumpin’ Extra Ale”. I looked over the list of available drafts and decided to go with one of their own microbrews, “Cantaloupe Smoke Habanero”. I could smell the habanero in the odor and there was a definite bite in the aftertaste. And the smoke flavor came through as well but the heat stood out for me. I liked this beer but it would not be for everyone… a point that was driven home later.

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The Maestro and I caught up some. Then we heard from Rowdy and the Cooler saying they would join us in a bit. In the interim we finished the brews in front of us and ordered two others. Maestro ordered a Sixpoint Brewing “Jammer” and I ordered an Angry Chair Brewing “Silver Alert”. Maestro was pleased with the Jammer. I was a little hesitant with the Silver Alert at first as the hops flavor was strong in both the tastes and smell, but after a bit it began to grow on me.

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It wasn’t long before Rowdy and the Cooler showed up. I recommended the Cantaloupe Smoke Habanero to Rowdy because I knew she liked the pepper brewed beers we had at the Tampa beer fest. The Cooler either had a coke or a cider, I don’t remember. Mostly I don’t remember it because of the reaction that Rowdy had to the Habanero. This is a perfect example of how two separate sets of taste buds can taste the same thing in two different ways.

Rowdy took a sip, then made a face like she had swallowed an ashtray, and said something along the lines of “All I taste is smoke!”

“You don’t taste any of the habanero?” I asked.

“No all I taste is smoke!” she replied. For me the smoke flavor was subtle and the heat from the habanero stood, which I really enjoyed. For her the smoke was the main flavor and she didn’t like it. Rowdy is also not a big fan of stouts. Too many of them taste like coffee and nothing else to her. Whereas I enjoy stouts immensely and love working paste the coffee flavor to pick out the other subtler hints.

After a bit we all agreed that the bar was really too loud for us to easily philosophy with one another, so we decided to close our tabs and head over to House of Beer. Tall Paul’s is a great place for beers, they have some games you can enjoy and feature some good bands occasionally. But a great place for conversing it is not, especially as the night goes on.

When we got to HOB Rowdy had a Green Flash West Coast IPA, which she really likes, Maestro had a Green Flash Jibe Session IPA, which I think he thought was okay, and I had the 5 Lizard Latin Style Witbier by 5 Rabbit Cerveceria, which I had before but decided to rate higher in my Untappd app this time. We gather our brews, staked out a table and began our Philosophying in earnest now without distractions.

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After a while we realized that between breaths of discussion we had supped our suds fairly dry and it was time to either retrieve more or move on. Someone suggested eating and I was in a mood to agree with that, as were the others. Maestro had an invite from some friends to join them at Wholly BBQ Café, just down the street. I was feelin’ like BBQ and Rowdy and the Cooler agreed. Maestro was open to suggestion and said if he didn’t like the suggestion he would join his friends for BBQ. I think the Cooler suggested Southern Charm (but it could have been Rowdy) and I said that I had never been there, which was true and kind of strange since I lived near there. So we decided on that. The Maestro passed but suggested the Pentecostal Chicken, then he left to join his friends at Wholly BBQ and the three of us made our way to Southern Charm.

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I arrived first, and found a spot in the parking lot next to the building on Hawthorne Road. If you have ever driven by Southern Charm, like I do almost every day, then you have probably thought the building looks kind of small. It truth it doesn’t look much bigger when you pull into the parking lot and the limited spaces kind of cement that. But I looked around the building a bit before I went and saw that there was enough street parking as well to accommodate most of the patrons they could probably hold.

The building is basically rectangular in nature running parallel with Hawthorne Road, The parking lot in on the southeast end of the site and the entrance in on the northeast end. They have plenty of outdoor seating as well though no one was sitting outdoors that night. When you walk in the Cashier/Hostess/Wait Station is immediately on the left and the right wall (which is closest to Hawthorne Road) is lined with small four seater wooden tables. The whole dining area is maybe twenty feet by forty feet, with the entrance to the kitchen behind the cashier. There are more four seater tables along the back wall and a larger eight seater in the middle (or maybe that was two four seaters pushed together – didn’t look that close) and another round top table in the back (parking lot end) in front of where the restrooms are located. The décor is soft tones and comforting with a little tip of the hat to diner kitsch as well.

One of the staff members greeted me with a big smile and said she would seat me in a minute. I said that was fine as I was waiting for two more to join me. In about the time I said that she was walking around with a few menus and walking me toward a four-seater along the windows, which is actually where I would have picked to sit. She laid out three place settings and menus and a server would be with me shortly. While I waited I looked over the menu. It was a simple double-sided paper menu folded over as a handout, but it hand a nice front design and a lot to read (see pictures below).

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A small group at a table left as I sat down, and it looked like a larger group had just sat at the table in the middle. Another group of four walked in after me and sat a table down from me along the windows. Finally, Rowdy and the Cooler walked in and sat down at our table. It was a few minutes later when the waitress came over and got a our drink order. When she brought those she got our food order. Rowdy went with the meatloaf and a couple of sides (I can’t remember which) and the Cooler went with the catfish and a couple sides. I had heard different recommendations from folks since this place had opened, but I have been wanting to try their Chicken and Waffles.

I know some folks think that is a weird combination but I can remember a visit to my grandma’s sister’s house when we were kids in Pennsylvania and served homemade chicken and waffles and it was one of the best meals I can remember ever having. I have been thinking about trying to remake it myself but just haven’t done it yet. The menu here described their Chicken and Waffles as their Pentecostal Chicken served over a buttered Belgian waffle with natural maple syrup. And since Maestro has suggested the Pentecostal Chicken it sounded like and even better idea. We put our order in and waited…

And waited…

And waited…

If anyone has been around Rowdy when she gets hungry you know that’s not a good idea. The Cooler lived up to his nickname and cooled her off a bit. He pointed out that an 8 top and another 4 top put their order in front of us. And too his point the kitchen didn’t look to be that big so I could see a bottle neck occurring if they got a lot of orders at once.

The food did arrive and the waitress apologized for the wait before it did get there. I didn’t really ask Rowdy and Cooler how their meals were as I was completely enraptured with mine (see pic below). The Pentecostal Chicken is similar to Pentecostal Chicken I have had before but with a little more zest in it. And it was served with a little bit of gravy on it. The waffle was perfect and went really well with the chicken especially with the syrup. Now a traditional Chicken and Waffles up north of the Mason Dixon line is pretty much fried chicken served on a waffle and dusted with powdered sugar.

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My great-aunt’s, on the other hand, was a homemade waffle served with chicken in a white gravy poured over it. When I tell some folks about it they kind make a funny face, but the combination was delicious. Southern Charm’s version was almost the best of both worlds. It is definitely one of the tastiest dishes I have had in a while. I was definitely a member of the Clean Plate Club that evening. So was the Cooler. Rowdy ended up taking a to-go box because she couldn’t eat anymore.

We got our check and settled up. Other than the waiting period for our food to come out, I don’t have a complaint at all about Southern Charm. In fact I can’t wait to go back and try a different dish.

A little word of caution, the Chicken and Waffles may be a Yankee dish but the Sweet tea is definitely southern… sweet being the key word.

Papabear

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