Restaurant review

Southern Provisions brings a taste of Dixie to Canton

For The Baltimore Sun
The space hasn't changed much, but some updates have helped Southern Provisions define its identity.

There's no lack of eating and drinking establishments along O'Donnell Square in Canton. Now, another bar-restaurant has joined the ranks — Southern Provisions, which took over the former Jokers 'n Thieves spot in April.

The space hasn't changed much in the transition, but there have been updates, like the glass garage doors that roll open in good weather to allow for fresh air in the dining room. Even when closed, they are windows to the world.

Otherwise, the first-floor dining area still has exposed ceilings, trendy Edison lights and two bars that were bustling with good nature during our midweek visit. The decor is a blend of industrial chic and country backwoods with reclaimed barn siding and old license plates on the walls.

Upstairs, there's a similar dining room with a bar, open on Fridays and Saturdays and available for private parties.

The usual array of drinks, wine, beer and signature cocktails, is available, along with a list of bourbons and ryes.

But Southern Provisions is family-friendly with high chairs, a changing station in the restroom and a kids' menu that offers chicken tenders, grilled cheese and a beef slider with applesauce as a side.

"We want to include everyone in the neighborhood," said general manager Larry Romanowicz.

The adult menu is Southern inspired. One of the most interesting items is called "meat sweats," featuring huge slabs of brisket, pork belly, ribs and more — a dish designed to share among two to four people. We didn't try it, but we like the idea.

The restaurant kept some of the top-selling menu items from Jokers 'N Thieves and added new dishes like the grilled cheese with American and mozzarella, tomato jam, andouille sausage and arugula. You can also substitute tofu.

Executive chef Anthony Eppolite, who previously worked at Macky's Bayside Bar & Grill in Ocean City, is having fun in the kitchen, though he is taking the preparations seriously.

We kicked off our meal with pimento mac and cheese spring rolls with a sweet chili mayo for dipping. These fat bundles captured the best of the ingredients — oozy cheese studded with sweet peppers, al dente macaroni and delicate wrappers — for a burst of comfort-food flavor.

The plump deviled eggs got their zip from a dainty scoop of pickled mustard seeds and a shower of paprika. They were delicious morsels worthy of any family picnic.

The fried green tomatoes went a step further than usual with dabs of house mozzarella crowning the rounds, creating a textural goodness. A red wine vinegar reduction and smoked sea salt added tang to the dish.

Our main dishes continued in a Southern fashion.

The pulled pork sandwich, piled high with succulent shreds of braised pork shoulder, was juicy with housemade barbecue sauce and pickled red onions. The jaw-dropping effect was a large, crispy pork crackling perched like a beret on top of the meat.

This is just the place to get messy with a rack of pork ribs, accompanied by fries and freshly made slaw. The tender meat was dry rubbed and glazed with bourbon barbecue sauce. You will want to pick the bones clean.

The Chuck-town (a Charleston, S.C., nickname) shrimp and grits was an interpretation that went overboard. While the large shrimp in a red-eyed seafood cream sauce was fine on its own, the concoction made the creamy grits underneath it too soupy.

Our waitress seemed surprised when we asked for dessert and said she would check with the kitchen. She reported back that there was goo cake or pecan pie. We ordered both and then were told there was only goo cake.

We advise you skip it. It tastes like a gloppy devil's food cake mix that's been heated up and served in a glass jar with whipped cream.

The restaurant's name switch to Southern Provisions when it changed ownership was purposeful.

"We liked the concept and direction of Jokers 'n Thieves," Romanowicz said. "But from a branding point of view, it made more sense to have a more precise name."

From the crowds on a recent evening, it seems to have gotten the message across.

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Southern Provisions

Rating: 2 1/2 stars

Where: 3000 O'Donnell St.

Contact: 410-675-4029, southern-provisions.com

Open: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday, 10 am. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Prices: Appetizers, $4-$18; sandwiches, $9-$16; entrees, $13-$80 (a dish for four).

Food: Southern inspired.

Noise/TVs: The lower level with two bars is noisy; four TVs downstairs, five TVs and a pull-down screen for football games upstairs.

Service: Our waitress was attentive and cheerful.

Parking: Street parking.

Special diets: Can accommodate.

Reservation policy: Accepted for parties of six or more.

[Key: Superlative: 5 stars; Excellent: 4 stars; Very good: 3 stars; Good: 2 stars; Promising: 1 star.]

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