If you have a craving for good, old-fashioned comfort food just like momma used to make, Southern Fresh is your place. The restaurant is nestled in an adorable cottage just off the main drag in Safety Harbor with both indoor and outdoor seating. The interior is relatively spartan, but clean and comfortable. Waitstaff are more polished and professional than one might expect at a "meat and three" joint (Southern Fresh is actually a "meat and two", but they make up for it by serving wine). Ryan was very friendly and attentive, as was an additional female server who also checked in on us from time to time.
The menu is quite limited, offering two soups, two salads, one sandwich and four entree selections (fried chicken, half of a rotisserie chicken, slow roasted pork and grilled salmon) on our visit. Entrees come with two sides...your choice of collard greens, home-style mashed potatoes, southern style green beans and roasted seasonal vegetables). Banana Pudding was the only dessert available when we were there...not that we wouldn't have ordered it regardless. I'd rather a place do a few things really well than a lot of things in a mediocre way, so this shouldn't be taken as criticism...but a slightly expanded menu would be nice. Southern Fresh needs fried catfish and meatloaf if they want to be truly "bona fide", and maybe a couple of additional side dishes (my suggestions would be black-eyed peas and mac & cheese...and I know how extremely thankful they will be for this unsolicited opinion). However, I did grow up in Nashville so I know a thing or two about what should be on southern/soul food menu. Oh...and give me biscuits and cornbread, too. Get to work!
We really enjoyed everything we tried. Wines were reasonably priced and generously poured. Since UD ordered the fried chicken which is cooked to order and takes some time, we each tried one of the soups. My homemade chicken noodle soup was chunky, flavorful, and laden with meat, veggies, and whimsical curly macaroni strands. Delightful!
My better half started with the BLT soup, which he adored. A liberal hand was used with the nice-sized bacon pieces which swam in a zesty, tomato broth. The entire concoction was topped with a sprinkling of crisp and obviously freshly chopped romaine lettuce. Unique, savory and delish.
Dogboy's fried chicken was truly southern traditional style...lightly dredged in flour and cooked to juicy perfection. He ordered dark meat, of course, as everyone knows white meat has all the flavor of copier paper and was invented for dieters and sissies. Mashed potatoes were indeed "home-style" (no hoity-toity "redskin garlic mashed" application is going on here), served hot and creamy with a lovely gravy. I think the best collard greens I've ever eaten were procured at Cafe Dufrain in Tampa, but these were a very close second.
My slow roasted pork was off the chain (they must've marinated it for days and slow cooked it for hours to get it so tender). A nice, zippy barbecue sauce came on the side. The green beans, however, were somewhat uninspiring. A little too crunchy to be deemed "southern style" IMSuthrenHO, they needed more pork (ham hock, not bacon) and maybe a little chopped onion.
The spousal unit practically gave himself whiplash whisking the banana pudding out of my reach, making for a poor photo. After tasting it, I couldn't really blame him. The custard was creamy and sturdy with nary a hint of Jello Pudding artificial aftertaste. I particularly liked how they layered the vanilla wafers into the pudding right before serving so they retained their texture instead of degenerating into a mushy mess.
Final word: We liked it. Each dish we tried was clearly created with care. All of this, plus two glasses of house Chard for me and a glass of Petite Petit Syrah (along with a designated driver iced tea) came to $60 before gratuity and we took home enough leftovers for another meal.
My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.