There were a couple of girls in my grade school class who belonged to this fancy thing called a “country club.” I didn’t completely understand what it was at the time, but I knew that there was a swimming pool with a slide, and all the food was free if you wrote down your friend’s last name.
Table Fifty-Two is like the dining room of a southern country club, but a little bit warmer, and you’re actually allowed in the door without dropping a few grand. You will, however, still drop a decent amount of cash, and the food isn’t free even if you sign your friend’s name.
Tucked away in the Biggs Mansion, one of the fortunate survivors of the Chicago Fire, Table Fifty-Two is right outside of Viagra Triangle. Instead of belting 80’s jams at the Hangge Uppe or getting your shoes barfed on at Shenanigans, you can dine on proper Southern cuisine merely steps away in an old 19th century home with high arched ceilings and antique furnishings.
The chef, Art Smith, is best known for being the former personal chef for Oprah and Jeb Bush, which says a lot about the place. Pedigree aside, he does not disappoint. The kitchen delivers on a number of classic dishes like fried chicken and shrimp and grits with fantastic Southern charm. And just when you think you’ve got it all pegged, changeups are thrown to keep things interesting - mango chutney on deviled eggs, or black pepper ice cream with dessert. The twists add just enough flair to otherwise predictable Southern cuisine, but it’s not so off the wall to totally deviate from your expectations.
We’re down to be members of this country club any night, but no promises we still won’t try and stick someone else with the bill.
Goat Cheese and Chive Biscuits
Can biscuits be creamy? We didn’t realize it was possible. These biscuits were made with goat cheese and chives, and they’re somehow fresh and light and dense and chewy. We felt a lot of things at once.
Much like most of the menu, the deviled eggs change frequently to keep up with seasonal ingredients. Ours were topped with mango chutney, jerk seasoning,mint, cilantro, and lime zest. Pretty dang good.
Three Cheese Mac
My dad looked over at me, as a tear ran slowly down his cheek, and said, “This is the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had. Even better than Kraft.” And the man was right about this piping hot, cheesy masterpiece. It’s delicious, and a fan favorite for a reason. You should get this to split with the table.
Fried Green Tomatoes
The best fried green tomatoes in town. Sure, this isn’t New Orleans, so it’s not the most competitive contest to win, but with onion jam, pork cracklins, and bacon aioli, it blows the competition out of the water.
Pork Belly Roulade
A roll of pork belly with cannellini beans, arugula, and tomatillo-bacon jam. It’s good, but hard to consume a whole plate, and pork belly in large doses isn’t usually our thing. If you get this, make sure you’re splitting another entree as well.
The steak comes with an interesting mix of coconut stewed garbanzos, mustard greens, and tamarind glaze. It's the least Southern-centric dish here. Good, but we probably wouldn't order again.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
The skin is crunchy, crispy, and light. The chicken is moist and steaming hot and served over a bed of roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Another crowd favorite,and another must order.
Low-Country Shrimp and Grits
Bradley’s white corn grits, ancho shrimp, stewed tomatoes. Creamy and filling, yet light. Whoever is making this, you are a magical wizard.
We usually opt for the chocolatiest, gluttoniest option on the menu, but the waiter convinced us otherwise. And holy hll do we thank him. This lemon rhubarb scone is topped with black pepper ice cream that's so perfectly balanced and delicious. Get it. It’s the perfect ending to your meal.