A month or so ago, while browsing through an airport news shop, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a magazine called Garden & Gun. I stopped in my tracks and squinted to see if that was, in fact, the name of a magazine. And it was. So, naturally, I had to investigate. I was fully expecting this to be a joke – some MAD Magazine spin on Southern Living. But no, this magazine is for real, and it takes itself very seriously. An online description states that it is “A Southern lifestyle magazine that’s all about the magic of the new South – sporting culture, food, music, art, literature, people, and ideas” – which sounds pretty interesting to me, being from the south and all.
I thumbed through the magazine and discovered that it contains interesting lifestyle pieces and beautiful photography. However, what grabbed my attention most in this particular issue was the supersized mint julep cup on the front and the cover story, “The South Invades NYC.” In the story, the author discusses the many southern-inspired restaurants popping up around Manhattan and Brooklyn. Since I’m a New York transplant from the Deep South, the southern food trend that seems to be overtaking the city both excites and scares me – I’m excited to be able to get some of the flavors from home that I love, but I’m scared that I’ll be sorely disappointed by the way they are interpreted. Nonetheless, I decided to try two of the restaurants mentioned in the article – The Redhead and Tipsy Parson. Though I will also post a review on The Redhead, this post will focus exclusively on Tipsy Parson.
I made reservations for a Saturday night at 7:15, and when I arrived, the restaurant and bar were pretty empty. This immediately worried me. But, since my friend was late, I decided to sit and have a drink at the bar. Tipsy Parson is known for its frozen peach julep – the image from the cover of Garden & Gun – but it is nothing like a traditional mint julep. However, it’s very good – shockingly good for a frozen cocktail, which always conjure up in my mind images of tropical beaches or Bourbon Street. It was well blended and fully frozen – it didn’t have pools of liquid rising to the top like you sometimes get when frozen cocktails haven’t been in the machine long enough. The peach flavor tasted pretty authentic – I don’t think they use a peach syrup – and it wasn’t saccharine, just pleasantly sweet. It’s really a perfect summertime drink and would be a great at a BBQ.
We ended up waiting until around 8 to go to our table, and at that point, the restaurant started getting busy (phew…). The decor and ambiance is terrific and very fitting with the southern inspired theme. The front room with the bar is outfitted in dark wood, wainscoting, miniature tiles on the floors, and bookshelf-printed wallpaper – it also has little pieces of vintage bric-a-brac displayed on the large shelves behind the bar.
In the dining room, interesting decorative plates adorn the walls, and all of the tables are practically bistro sized – very cute. To me, it felt like the inside of your sweet grandmother’s stately plantation-like home. Only adding to the charm was the placement of our table next to a set of French doors that opened out to a teeny little garden.
Our waiter was very johnny-on-the-spot and immediately came to take our drink orders. I selected a glass of lambrusco, which I was thrilled to see on their menu by the glass. It’s uncommon to find lambrusco period, and this lambrusco happened to be very good. In the U.S., when you find it, it tends to be disgustingly sweet, but this glass was fairly dry – I’d probably say off dry.
We also ordered some of the snacks – specifically, the deviled eggs and the fried oysters. Both were simply scrumptious. The deviled eggs were a delight. While many deviled eggs are on the sweet side and incorporate ingredients such as sweet pickle relish and paprika – which I find off-putting – these were very savory. In fact, they had a good deal of mustard in them, lending to their vinegary flavor. The oysters were also fantastic. The breading was crispy – not too greasy – and it was well seasoned. The oysters themselves were medium-sized and very juicy. They were served with a bold dipping sauce, something akin to an aioli seasoned with Old Bay. Along with our snacks, the waiter delivered some rolls to the table – one per person. They were very unusual. At first glance, they looked like your average dinner rolls topped with gravy and green onions. However, it ended up that their tops had just been glazed before baking to encourage browning. I thought the crust was too hard – it didn’t flake, it cracked – and it had an off flavor. The crumb was flavorless and it somehow managed to be light but dense at the same time – a bit like cotton candy. Furthermore, they were served without butter.
Next, our main courses were delivered. I thoroughly enjoyed mine and ate every last bite. I ordered the catfish, which is dusted with seasoning, broiled, and served alongside crispy potatoes and a cucumber salad. The fish was very light and flavorful, which surprised me, as I’m accustomed to catfish being very heavy and fried. The potatoes were perfectly crispy and well salted, and the cucumber salad was amazing. Granted, the salad didn’t exactly “fit” with the rest of the food on the plate, but the flavors were so robust that I finished this before anything else on the plate.
My dining companion ordered the cod, and all I can really say about it is that it was very fishy. The sheer fishiness of the cod blocked out a lot of the other flavors.
We rounded out the meal with the Lemon Cooler Pie. It was very traditional, and I would have liked for the lemon-thyme sauce to be more pronounced in order to give the pie more of a twist – but it was still very good. It managed to maintain its lemon flavor instead of taking on an artificial, overly sweet taste. It was served with an olive oil gelato that, though creamy and lightly sweetened, tasted more like vanilla than anything else.
The meal ended up being a bit pricey (the frozen julep alone was $12, and the pie was $8), but everything was delicious and the ambiance was charming – so I’d say it was worth it. I would definitely go back, especially with someone visiting from the south.