It has been a while since a restaurant has been able to entice me to make the trip to Clermont, but The Southern On 8th finally got me there. And if the level of quality there is any indication of what’s going on in Clermont, I’ll have to go back more often.
As you might glean from the name, Southern on 8th serves a menu of Southern dishes, both traditional and contemporary, and occupies a corner space at West Montrose Street and – you probably can figure this out – 8th Street.
It’s a big place, with a separate foyer entrance, a couple of sizable dining rooms and a large bar with more tables that sits off a covered porch. The decor has touches of rusticity – distressed brick walls and barn board paneling – but the atmosphere tends toward upscale casual.
The menu is under the direction of executive chef Richard Formato with George Candelaria as chef de cuisine. Darren Johnston and Formato are co-owners.
On the recommendation of our waiter – service was very good, by the way – my dining companions and I started with a basket of spring onion & cheddar biscuits and Southern corn muffins, accompanied by pimento cheese, house-made preserves and maple honey butter.
We shared the fish dip, a hot mix of smoked, locally caught fish and blue crab meat, a delicious bowl of gooey goodness that we spread on toasted sourdough.
We also had the creole baked Gulf oysters, half-shelled bivalves topped with garlic-infused parmesan and butter.
For my entree, I chose the Southern shrimp & grits, a more colorful (and flavorful) rendition than I’ve had in a while. It featured Atlantic red shrimp, plump and firm, hunks of spicy chorizo sausage and blistered cherry tomatoes. The grits had white cheddar cheese blended in, and it was all surrounded by a moat of pan broth. Very nice.
One of my companions had the grilled bone-in pork loin chop, a tender hunk of meat topped with a blend of caramelized apple and onion-tinged goat cheese and a sauce of bourbon peach demi-glace. A slice of prosciutto garnished the meat, which rested on a ploof of grits next to grilled multi-colored carrots.
The black angus tenderloin filet was also served with the colorful carrots but had mushroom risotto instead of grits. The meat, perfectly grilled to the requested medium rare, was graced with a bordelaise.
Another guest had the Low Country seafood pappardelle, which had the wide al dente noodles tossed with red shrimp, bay scallops, fish and chorizo, plus some sweet corn and a sauce of lemon cream.
If I hadn’t had an extra biscuit at the start of the meal, I might have had room for bread pudding, Key lime pie or the bourbon kissed chocolate pecan pie. But I’ll have to save those for another trip. It isn’t that far away.