SoHo Restaurant & Lounge seems a bit of a puzzle at first glance. The restaurant serves up Southern-style comfort food, while the adjacent lounge dishes out an urban, DJ-driven nightlife experience--not exactly an intuitive combination. The dining room was modern and club-like with a spare, almost stark feel. The interior was done in shades of white, black and gray, with a few black and white photos of various landmarks adorning the walls. There were other slightly odd touches, as well, such as the bottle service list on the table, in addition to the dinner menu. But what SoHo (an abbreviation for Southern Hospitality) might have lacked in warm decor and cozy accoutrements, it more than made up for in down-home tasty goodness.
Bread service consisted of some sweet cornbread fritters served with honey butter to nosh on while perusing the menu--a tasty, unique touch that signaled the deliciousness that was to come.
The appetizer list was chock-full of all manner of comforting small plates, from Fried Green Tomatoes ($6) to Jumbo Fried Shrimp ($10). We went with one of our all-time favorites, Fried Okra ($5). The okra were crisp and fried in a tempura-esque beer batter and served with some spicy mayo for dipping purposes.
With appetites primed, we hit the entree selections for some BBQ Shrimp & Grits ($16) and an order of Country Fried Steak ($12). The bowlful of rich, cheesy grits came topped with a sweet BBQ sauce and crumbled bacon, and was replete with plenty of plump, tender shrimp. The cube steak was pan-fried and smothered with a rich milk gravy. On the side was a hearty serving of smooth country-style mashed potatoes and some buttery sauteed green beans. We've had plenty of fried steaks that came out tough and leathery, but this version was fairly tender with just a bit of chewiness.
We finished up with a slice of the Sweet Potato Cheesecake ($6). It was billed as a combo of cheesecake and sweet potato pie, but taste-wise it was more reminiscent of pumpkin pie, though it definitely had the creamy consistency of a cheesecake.
All of our portions were plentiful, in true comfort food fashion, and the prices were exceptionally reasonable. The SoHo menu also featured a small selection of classic sandwiches. We plan on trying the delectable-sounding Grown Up Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($8), with three cheeses and slices of Granny Smith apples, next time around. With all of that good Southern fare, we were surprised that certain go-to favorites didn't make the cut. We'd love to see a gumbo, fried chicken or maybe some buttermilk biscuits make it onto the next menu lineup.
During our visit, the lounge wasn't hopping and so the dining room was fairly silent. There is some overlap between the lounge and restaurant schedules, though, and we'd be interested to see if the two worlds collide when the DJs start up.
All in all, SoHo makes for a tasty addition to the up-and-coming Grove neighborhood.
--SoHo Restaurant & Lounge, 4229 Manchester Ave., 932-5554, eatplaysoho.com.