Last night our friends Sweet Polly and her Dawg, my bride, and I discovered a dandy dining venue in the ever growing Grand Central District of St. Petersburg. Urban Comfort Restaurant and Brewery has repurposed an old gas station at 2601 Central and turned it into a mecca for down home dining, like Sunday dinner at Grandma's house ... not my Grandma since she was German, but still, Urban Comfort is Southern dining at its finest.
The decor isn't grand or luxurious. There is a lot of bare concrete, wood, metal, and tile. There is outdoor seating at long picnic tables right next to the soon-to-be-finished shuffleboard courts. It was so easy to overlook the somewhat Spartan surroundings when greeted by the warm and charming staff. Our delightful server this evening was the sparkling Kate who catered to our every whim.
After presenting menus, Kate said that she would be right back with our waters; to which we responded, "... hold the water and bring the alcohol," for it's a long dry drive from the Gulf beaches. In a flash, Kate appeared with wine, brews, and a signature cocktail that we enjoyed while considering the choices for appetizers.
The table wisely chose the Fish Spread with cucumbers, carrots, crackers, and the delightfully zesty Urban Hot Sauce. We also shared the simply named House Cured Bacon with Savory Grits.
The House Cured Bacon came as a big surprise. It was not at all what I was expecting. It far surpassed anything I had imagined with that perfectly prepared pork belly sitting on top of the creamiest, most delicious grits I have ever consumed. With a larger serving I could have made a complete meal out of that bacon and grits masterpiece.
Looking at the Entrees section of the menu, I was not blown away by the understated descriptions of the listed offerings. It was another matter when the dishes were served. The portions were huge and a feast for the eyes even before a morsel touched our lips.
My bride had the simply described but astounding Fried Pork Chops with a savory bacon gravy accompanied with the side special of creamy lima beans with bits of pork.
What was served to my Beach Baby was definitely not from the children's menu. Those two crispy fried chops with a hint of spice extended beyond the edge of the plate. Even though my entree of fried chicken was one of the best renditions I can remember, those chops were my favorite of the evening, and again as a reheated leftover the next day.
The Urban Comfort fried chicken is cured in a herb and buttermilk brine, then fried to crispy perfection. This half chicken was moist and flavorful from wing, to leg, to thigh, and breast. I also had a side of those amazing lima beans.
For her main dish, Sweet Polly had the Fresh Catch Fried Fish with Hush Puppies, and Mashed Potatoes with Bacon Gravy. I don't remember being offered a taste of this Southern fried treat because I was lost in my own little fried chicken world. The only suggestion I heard was the fish could have used a little more time to brown up.
Sweet Polly was also presented with a skillet of understated goodness, a Squash Casserole side dish that was shared by the table.
The final entree delivered by Kate was Underdog's Sunday supper staple, Chicken 'n' Dumplings, that was described as, "... so _______ (insert adjective of choice here) good!"
All entrees are served with a flaky biscuit with creamy butter and one side.
The final plate brought to our table was a not-too-sweet seasonal dessert, the Pumpkin and Applesauce Pie with a superb glob of whipped cream crowning this end of the meal treat.
Looking at the somewhat limited Urban Comfort on-line menu I was prepared to be underwhelmed. What I experienced was totally opposite. The food, beverages, prices, and service were outstanding. Our total with all food and beverages came to $154.08. We split the bill down the middle, so each couple paid a measly $77. Kate was very deserving of the optional gratuities that we left.
If you are in the mood for Southern comfort food, you will be as happy as a paleontologist perusing a prodigious pile of petrified pterodactyl poop if you dine at Urban Comfort.
All photos taken by the official Piglet Parade photographer, The Belle of Gulf Boulevard.