Want to know what one of my many regrets in life is? Never taking a trip to the south. New Orleans, the Carolinas, Atlanta…never once have I ventured there. It makes no sense. I love deep frying! And biscuits! And grits and gravy! This is why I really enjoy trying to find good ol’ Southern cooking in the immediate NYC area. Who cares if it’s off Park Avenue? It hits the spot for someone like me – never having had the “real deal” and all, I imagine this is close enough.
The space inside Gravy didn’t scream “Southern” to me; I was picturing a more cozy atmosphere, but it was quite spacious and sleek which fell in line nicely with the modernized menu. Gravy also has two private rooms for group dining, which are currently booked on a first come, first serve basis with no additional costs to reserve the rooms. This is a great feature to have, especially when my friends always ask where they could go for a birthday or large group dinner, without having to pay extra. Problem solved! One of the rooms, which Gravy calls the “Chef’s Table”, is located above the kitchen and you have to walk through it to get there, which is pretty cool because if you’re lucky (like me) you might run into Chef Michael Vignola and have a moment to shake his hand. But don’t linger…he needs those hands to stir those delicious grits. More on that later. The Chef’s Table menu is the same as the main restaurant, but if you want to work with the chef to devise your own special menu, you can do that too. How cool is that?
Time to discuss the food. It was still happy hour when we arrived, so we took full advantage of the “Wine Not Wednesday” (get it?) promotion from 5-7 pm where each glass of wine is $7, then we ordered the crawfish fritters and spinach blue crab dip to start. The crawfish fritters were perfectly crispy with little crawfish and rice inside; they were texturally similar to arancini di riso (rice balls in Italian). The spinach dip was a bit disappointing due to a superfluous amount of dill. I took a piece of the thin and crispy bread, dipped it in the cheesy dip and had such high hopes for it, but all I could taste was dill. What the dilly?!
Taking things at Gravy to a lighter side for a moment was the pan roasted salmon with butternut squash and apple cider vinaigrette. How Autumnal! I enjoyed this salmon a lot. The skin was so crispy and salty, but the salmon was perfectly cooked inside. The sweet vinaigrette was a nice compliment.
Now back to the good stuff aka the artery clogging, delicious and hardly-nutritious stuff. Wait I take that back…corn is good for you…so is chicken…and rice…yup. Totally. Maybe I’m leaving out some words but that’s fine. Crackling creamed corn, cornflake crusted chicken and gravy, seafood and rice, and grits three ways: honey, porky and cheesy. Oh, you heard me. Honey. Porky. Cheesy. Trifecta.
I thought the sides were better than the mains (not that the mains were bad), and the grits three ways made me happy inside. I liked the honey and porky the best. Maybe because I’m porky. Do what I did: take a small scoop from the honey grits and then top it with a small scoop of porky and eat them together. Sweet + salty + meaty + creamy = NUMS. The crackling creamed corn was a bit of a surprise, in a good way; I didn’t expect it to be so many textures and I certainly didn’t think it was going to be spicy, but it was great. It’s got a nice amount of heat so be advised if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing.
Cornflake crusted chicken is really underrated. I’m all for a good coating of panko, but there’s something about the flaky crunch that you just can’t get from anything other than cornflakes. The chicken was stuffed with andouille sausage and cheddar cheese, served on a bed of BBQ beans, collard greens and kale. I love collard greens and kale. The beans were a little undercooked, the chicken could have been a little more moist, but fortunately there was some delicious gravy to swirl it around in. It’s all gravy baby!
Alexis ordered the Sullivan Island Bog, which is ideal for the seafood lover: shrimp, crawfish, mussels, squid, scallops, andouille sausage, charred tomatoes, and Carolina red rice. To me, this is the Southern version of a stew or risotto – a filling, hearty meal in one dish. Alexis HAS been to the South, so she can give the seal of approval on this one. I liked it too, but the shrimp had the heads on and well, we know how I feel about that.
We were pretty full of complex carbohydrates at this point, but I still needed to try something sweet, so we shared the peach tart with brown sugar cream cheese. It didn’t look like a tart, but I guess it sort of tasted like one..? Either way it hit the spot.
Just read the menu and tell me you don’t start salivating around “bourbon caramel sauce”.
32 East 21st St
Opentable Link here