South of Beale (SOB)

Decent Food, Good People

Continuing my quest in finding great burgers, I visited the only "gastropub" (can someone explain the difference between this and a bar) in Downtown's South Main Arts District. South of Beale (SOB) isn't a place that I'm unfamiliar with, for I have been there many times with friends. In all my visits, I can't say that the food was impressive. In particular, I didn't like a sirloin steak that I ate during a birthday party for a friend. Although that steak is currently off the menu (replaced by filet mignon), I still remember it whenever I'm at SOB. Speaking of memories, the only menu item that I liked was a burger that came with fried tomatoes. Unfortunately, that version of the SOB Burger isn't on the menu. The restaurant replaced it with something that doesn't come close to its predecessor.

The SOB Burger was decent by most standards. From a preparation standpoint, the gastropub cooked it just the way I wanted it (medium rare). However, the burger lacked the dazzling effect that I was hoping for. Other than the onions providing some caramelized flavor, there was nothing about the SOB Burger that impressed me. Even the Spring Mix of spinach and lettuce and the brioche bun couldn't convince me to give the burger a more favorable opinion. The burger comes with SOB's potato chips that lacked crispness and were mushy. Overall, the SOB Burger is decent enough for most, but the bar needs to step its game up if it wants to compete with places like Local and Automatic Slim's.
The only highlight in my meal was SOB's in-house ketchup. The condiment was sweeter and less dense than most. The thickness of it was low enough for slurping, which I did with a straw. I know that sounds weird, but that's how I roll. Whenever I'm at SOB again, I might get a bowl of it to dip my food in (such as a boring run-of-the-mill cheeseburger).

I didn't want to end this on a negative note, so I found something that's more to my liking. Picking randomly from the menu, I chose the SOB Bar Pie without knowing exactly what it was. It turned out to be a flatbread with mozzarella, basil and roasted tomatoes on a buttery soft crust that meshed well together. Every element in the approximately 8" flatbread contributed equally for a good bar food snack. Just like most of its menu, the flatbread isn't something that I would go out of my way for. However, the SOB Bar Pie is a decent option to choose whenever I'm at SOB.
While it isn't cutting edge, South of Beale serves good food that's coupled with friendly service in a casual environment. During all my visits, the waitstaff took great care in serving me and ensuring that my needs were met. For me, that made the time I spent there worthwhile and will likely be a reason for dining there again. I would rather have a mediocre burger served by someone who appreciates my patronage than a great burger from a place (such as the P & H Cafe) that seemingly doesn't want my business. SOB's owners Brittany Cabigao and her husband are good people who I hope have a lot of success in the future. I will do what I can to support them and I hope others do too.

NOTE: South of Beale also has locations in East Memphis and Collierville.


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