Southern Comfort: Down-Home Eats in NYC

Big-city diners crave flavors from below the Mason-Dixon Line. Here's where to find the dishes:

New York may be Yankee territory, but that doesn’t mean a Northerner’s belly never grumbles for a taste of the South. NYC chefs give mama’s cookin’ the metropolitan treatment.

Cluckin’ Good

Fried chicken 'n' waffles. It’s not guilt-free, but this marriage of dinner and breakfast is gut-pleasing—and the uncanny combo iseverywhere.  Melba’s (300 W. 114th St., at Frederick Douglass Blvd., 212.864.7777), a Harlem staple, made a splash when founder Melba Wilson bested celeb chef Bobby Flay in a chicken ‘n’ waffle cook-off. Her innovative recipe wows: The waffles (with a moist, cakelike center) are made with eggnog instead of milk, while the chicken is soaked in a mustard-buttermilk mix before being fried. Top it off with strawberry butter, and you’ve made it to that henhouse in the sky. During brunch, The Winslow (243 E. 14th St., btw Second & Third aves., 212.777.7717) does the dish with surprising soul for a British-inflected pub—crisp, coarsely textured thighs and legs sit atop dainty triangular waffle slices, all doused in a medley of black pepper gravy and maple syrup that’s more savory than sweet (pictured). Chefs at The Brooklyn Star (593 Lorimer St., btw Metropolitan Ave. & Conselyea St., 718.599.9899) serve it up classic: a golden-brown breast and leg, all moist and tender, perched on a thick, round waffle and slathered in apple butter. The kicker? It comes with a halved grapefruit caramelized via blowtorch. Divine.

Fried chicken 'n' waffles at The Winslow

Pass the Biscuits

No meal south of the Mason-Dixon Line is complete without a heaping side of biscuits. You can get your fix ’round the clock at Empire Biscuit (198 Ave. A, btw E. 12th & E. 13th sts., 646.682.9529), an all-night eatery devoted to the carb-laden treat. “Country” and “all butter” varieties are worked into mouthwatering combos, from oxtail-and-brown-sugar jelly with arugula and fennel butter to foie-gras butter with preserved lemon and cabbage jam. For the traditionalist:  983 (983 Flushing Ave., at Central Ave., Brooklyn, 718.386.1133), dubbed “Bushwick’s living room,” has a biscuit dish on its brunch menu to sate all Southern cravings. The “SOS”—a mound of golden, house-made biscuits drowning in ambrosial mushroom gravy—may leave you with a soul that needs saving.

Country Goes Contemporary

In NYC, we like to mix things up.  Homey barbecue is fused with East Asian flavors on Fatty ‘Cue‘s (50 Carmine St., btw Bleecker & Bedford sts., 212.929.5050;  and one other NYC location) fusion menu. Think: fermented pork ribs with chili-palm sugar glaze (pictured). The décor matches the cuisine: A silver door handle is molded from an actual pig’s foot. At The Redhead (349 E. 13th St., btw First & Second aves., 212.533.6212), an intimate gastropub with red velvet banquettes, comfort meets culinary complexity in Lowcountry shrimp with creamy grits and andouille sausage. The house-made pretzels with garlicky, Kentucky beer cheese (seductively spreadable) can’t be passed up.

(Courtesy Fatty Crew Hospitality Group)

Fancy Ain’t My Thang

When it comes to down-home eats, it’s all right to get down ’n’ dirty. That’s the idea at Pies ’n’ Thighs (166 S. 4th St., at Driggs Ave., Brooklyn, 347.529.6090), a no-frills yet comfortable Williamsburg spot known citywide for fantasy-fulfilling fried chicken—served, as it oughta be, with hot sauce and honey. Nautical dive bar The Commodore (386 Metropolitan Ave., at Havemeyer St., Brooklyn, 718.218.7632)—with a kitchen helmed by a co-founder of Pies ’n’ Thighs, Georgia native Stephen Tanner—delivers an equally impressive crispy chicken experience (go for the medium-hot sandwich, topped with coleslaw and pickles), with a hip, young crowd, frozen cocktails and cheap pitchers of beer.  Feel free to kick back.

Pie in the Sky

A Southern eats emporium lies right near the southernmost entrance to the High Line. Bubby’s (73 Gansevoort St., at Washington St., 212.206.6200), new to the Meatpacking District nightlife mecca, serves hearty savories—including a tender pulled-pork sandwich—but the true lure is a soda fountain-style, takeout pie window, with offerings from double-crusted apple (pictured) to tangy Florida Key lime. It stays open until the wee hours of the morning, so clubgoers can have a sweet post-boogie binge.

Bubby's pie (©William Shear Photography)