Carla Hall is opening a new restaurant in NYC. The Chew co-host and former Top Chef contestant is debuting Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen (115 Columbia Street, Brooklyn) in the former space of Andy Ricker’s Whiskey Soda Lounge. We got a preview tasting of the food Hall will be serving during a Southern pop-up dinner collaboration with Top Chef alums Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth at Root & Bone.
Inspired by Sunday dinners at her grandmother’s house, the Nashville native is bringing a taste of her hometown to Red Hook. The menu concept focuses on the Southern city’s beloved spicy poultry and hearty side dishes. Hall’s chicken is pickle-brined, battered, fried, then doused in a hot oil, producing a thick, slightly greasy crust, with a tongue-coating hit of cayenne pepper. The meat is served on white bread with a house-made pickle on top.
The style is a stark contrast to the lighter, sweet-tea-brined, lemon-dusted chicken fried at Root & Bone — which goes to show how diverse fried chicken can be. Hall’s version is not overly piquant, but there is a mild burn, which builds after a couple of bites. A proposed menu states that the dish will be offered in a variety of spice options, with a choice of legs, breast, thighs, wings, or tenders.
The bird is the main character, but sides are an integral component. No meat will be used in any of the seasonally rotating vegetable plates, so Hall is relying on vinegars, oils, and smoked paprika for flavor. Her goal is to attract crowds that normally steer clear of homestyle comfort food due to its rib-sticking nature, while also making it healthier for those who already appreciate those dishes.
That means a side of thinly sliced, crisp collard greens that taste similar to traditional renditions, but without the porkiness — Hall employs smoked onion and smoked paprika to mimic the time-honored aromas of roasted pig. Potato salad gets an added dose of nutrients with the addition of sweet potatoes; it’s still creamy with plenty of mayo, but rounded out with some fresh chives. And a dish of deviled eggs takes cues from a cucumber sandwich Hall favorited while living in London — the yolks are blended with mustard and topped with diced, lightly pickled cucumbers, tasting light and gratifying at the same time.
Hall and her partner were hoping to unlatch the doors early this fall, but not surprisingly, when the contractors got into the space they realized there would be some delays. Right now, the team have their fingers crossed for November. “We’re hoping to be open by Thanksgiving, because this is the kind of food I eat on Thanksgiving Day,” Hall says. “So I’m going to be eating it with or without you.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 11, 2015