As we, like latter-day groundhogs, awaken from our socially distanced hibernation of “Interesting Times,” our thoughts turn from enduring enforced bouts of cabin fever and vaccines injected via square needles to the promise of spring-like weather and celebrating holidays once more.
My dining partner has always regarded Valentine’s Day as her getting paroled from the winter doldrums. Since the holiday falls on a Sunday this year, we celebrated it a little differently, with her joining me on a visit to Southern Craft BBQ and their Sunday Brunch.
Southern Craft BBQ is located on the southern fringe of Johnson City’s rejuvenated downtown. The creation of Stir Fry Group’s Rafael Zabala, Southern Craft is definitely a cut above most folks’ idea of a barbecue joint. For a start, the interior is “re-purposed industrial” combined with with warm, golden brown wood overtones and accents. The dining area has seating for about 100 or so hungry patrons at rough-hewn but wood-topped tables and rustic but serviceable chairs. If you are making reservations for a party of eight or more, ask for what I call “The Slab,” a notably massive table of what must be 3-inch thick unpolished stone set on sturdy legs. Fred Flintstone would feel right at home here. The bar is well-stocked and competently manned. The Great Oak Brewery adjoins at the rear of the dining area, as is access to Southern Craft’s restrooms.
Fried chicken biscuit and two fried eggs
On Sundays, Southern Craft BBQ has a separate (termed “So Cra”) menu for their brunch offerings. Their full regular menu is cleverly accessible on cards for your smartphone to access via the supplied Q-Code. Meal portions on the “So Cra” menu are geared toward savoring rather than wolfing your food, and the price per meal is right in line with this concept.
My dining partner was tickled to find her favorite fried chicken entrée inserted into a fair-sized biscuit along with a slice of red tomato for color and flavor ($11). Though pimento cheese comes with the biscuit’s stack, my partner had hers separate along with her side order of two eggs, fried medium well. The fried chicken breast, properly trimmed of its tendon “tail,” was fried to a perfection matched only by the fluffy moistness of its buttermilk biscuit. Though my dining partner’s eggs were fried, but not to her asked-for medium well consistency, her tomato slice was properly red, ripe and juicy.
Fried green tomato BLT and pepper jack grits
My choice from the “So Cra” menu was the fried green tomato BLT with a side order of Southern Craft’s pepper jack grits ($11). Here two slices of toasted white sourdough bread were layered with four strips of smoked lean bacon that are then topped with strips of green leaf lettuce and two slices of green tomato, dredged in seasoned cornmeal and then fried to a turn. The sandwich accompaniments of the house pimento cheese and a ramekin of Alabama white sauce were placed on the side at my request, but near to hand if I required them. My side order of cheese grits was particularly noteworthy for its use of a flavorful pepper jack cheese in place of the usual American or cheddar varieties. The pepper jack cheese gave the grits an extra boost of spiciness that, though unlooked-for, made a surprisingly good and subtly savory match with my BLT sandwich.
The bottom line
Southern Craft BBQ’s “So Cra” brunch is a very good way to celebrate your partner’s favorite holiday, or a mid-morning gathering with family and friends. The surroundings are pleasant and comfortable, the brunch menu has a well-curated variety on offer, and the service is exemplary and not intrusive.
Southern Craft BBQ takes particularly good care of their younger patrons, supplying them with a menu of their own that doubles as an activity sheet of puzzles and pictures with crayons to match. The menu’s five items look pretty good, being an entrée with one side order, drink and a cookie for just six bucks. I wonder if I can get my birth certificate back-dated.
Because word does get around, it is advisable to have your reservations made before you arrive at Southern Craft BBQ’s front door. If not, be prepared for a wait of some duration for your table. But be patient. Any length of wait is worth it to dine at Southern Craft. BBQ’s “So Cra” brunch.