As soon as the wheels touched down on LaGuardia’s tarmac, food was the first thing that crossed my mind. Yes, I was obviously excited about seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a while; looking forward to the upcoming weekend wedding celebration, and exploring New York City, but because my stomach was talking back to me, deciding where I was going to eat became priority number one.
With over 18,700 restaurants to choose from in Manhattan alone, it’s not easy deciding where to eat in the city, especially when you’re there for only three days. Reading the essay Courtney Balestier wrote for American Oxford, speaking to “New York’s crush on Southern food,” helped in narrowing my choices and made the decision a little easier.
Walking into Brooklyn’s Seersucker, this Southerner immediately felt right at home. Maybe it was the screen door that closed behind me as I stepped inside, the dim lighting’s warm welcoming glow against the austere interior’s use of brick, wood, and rustic metals, possibly the neat and delicious selections being presented, or the impressive display of colorful pickled goodness that separated the 40 seat dining room from the semi-open kitchen; whatever it was, it was awesome – the perfect way to kickoff the weekend.
At first glance, the menu reflects the refined details of its surroundings and right away I could tell the food was going to be authentic, true to form and it was; not the stereotypical greasy heaps of soul food that often times gets portrayed as the only Southern contribution to American cuisine. Much of Seersucker’s menu is graced with locally grown ingredients, coming from Carroll Gardens and Grand Army Greenmarkets, as well as those from special sources south of the Mason-Dixon, like the North Carolina trout from Canton’s very own Sunburst Trout Farms. With so many great dishes to choose from, deciding on one was difficult, but there’s a reassuring confidence that washes over you when you know you can’t make a poor choice.
Starting out, I went with the Cornmeal-Crusted East Coast Oysters. They were absolutely unbelievable. Growing up on Florida’s Emerald Coast, not too far from famed Apalachicola, I know good oysters and the delicate preparation that goes into delivering fried oysters that allow you to taste both the actual oyster and that of the sweet freshly sifted cornmeal that surrounds it, with one not upstaging the other. I narrowed my entrée selection down to the Potato Crusted North Carolina Trout and the Fried Chicken, but our server decided for me and she selected the Fried Chicken accompanied by Thumbelina Carrots, Yukon Potato Purée and a Bourbon-Vidalia Gravy (yes, I’m still in Brooklyn, New York). The boneless chicken was extremely fresh and tender, not over battered or heavy, and went so well with puréed potatoes and gravy, not to mention the sides of Braised Collards with Potlikker, Cayuga Organic Navy Beans with Country Ham, Considered Barnwell Farm Skilet Mac & Cheese, and Skillet Cayuga Cornbread. Admittedly, I went overboard with the sides, but I had to try them and was glad I did.
I seriously can’t recall ever having a meal out like this, especially this far from home – the flavors were incredible, tasting oddly familiar yet new and sophisticated. It was as if I was sitting down to one of my mother’s comforting Sunday evening dinners, as a kid, and having my first ever fine dining experience all in the same meal – absolutely amazing. Obviously, this wasn’t the lightest fare I could have selected, but I had to test Seersucker and see whether or not they were doing the Southern basics right. Without question, they are. The Arkansan behind Seersucker, Rob Newton, and his team are doing both those that have had the pleasure to dine with them, and the South, justice in Brooklyn. Throughout the meal, I remember shaking my head and smiling in both satisfaction and disbelief given the fact I was 646 miles from my southern home and enjoying a meal that tasted as if I had never left.