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Move over, Sweetie Pie's. There's a new soul food restaurant in South City, and it has chops.
Depending on the day, The Choice features fried chicken, smothered chicken, smoked turkey legs, candied yams, yolky potato salad, and an eggy bread pudding that tastes like a dreamy French toast.
The fried chicken is marinated in a batter of egg, powdered milk, butter, salt, and white pepper, rested overnight, and then floured and fried. It's some juicy, crispy, damn good fried chicken. The "smothered chicken (below left)," a Southern delight, is first fried then baked with gravy, hot chicken broth, onions, and 'shrooms. The texture is a sensual blend of crispy and moist. Candied yams (below right) are sweetened with sugar, honey, maple syrup, nutmeg, and cinnamon for an addictive taste. “The yams are baked, not cooked on the skillet, to avoid mushiness,” says The Choice's Lillian Coger, who previously owned Something Special by Lillian in the Central West End.
Smoked turkey legs are cooked in the smoker out back, then finished with a little Worcester sauce in the oven for about an hour. My typical complaint about smoked turkey is its occasional toughness, but this birdmeat just drops off the bone.
Other items (above and below) typically found on the 25-item buffet include stuffing, mostaccioli, red beans and rice, greens, roast beef, gumbo, baked turkey, sirloin steak, fish, catfish, seafood pasta, mashed potatoes and gravy, peach cobbler, pecan brownies, and a crunchy, French-toast like bread pudding. The menu is a reflection of what "Miss Lillian," as she is sometimes called, feels like making that day. (Call ahead to see if she has fried chicken or other items you’re hoping to find.)
Coger comes by her flair for Southern cooking via "some catering experiences, some classes, and a lot of family cooking," she says. "People have always loved my food. You have to prepare it slowly to get all the flavor.”
The premises, in the former home of the original Richard Perry Restaurant, are a visual surprise, too. The elegant ambience includes a white baby-grand piano (above), ornate place settings (see photos at end of article), and a classy wooden bar and lounge area (below).
Lillian and her husband, Rick, have even bigger dreams, though. They're hoping for an outsized success that will eventually lead them to open both a sports bar and jazz club in the building's second floor, as well as a B&B on the third floor.
The Choice manager Kevin Jackson (below at right, with Copper and employee Alex Slaughter), says it was the couple's ambitions that drew him to the restaurant. The food is dandy, the first floor is a study in elegance, and the lofty goals for the upper floors give a fella something toward which to strive.
3265 S. Jefferson
On Facebook: The Choice at Something Special