Mouth of the South, We Dreamed About You … Too Long.

Martha’s Pick:

Mouth of the South
7051 Ames Ave.
Fare: Southern
Cost: $70 for two drinks, two appetizers, two meals and one side
Reservations: Not needed for our Friday night visit

In early 2017, before The Good Bite was even a twinkle in our eye, Jaclyn and I fell in love with a Florence Gem: Mouth of the South (MotS). Personally, I loved it so much, I dragged my entire sales team from Millard to enjoy it when my boss gave me freedom to plan our team event. “It’s worth it,” I promised. And the 2017 version was worth it. If we gave out Golden Forks – it would have received one. If Certified Good Bites were a thing then – it would have been one.

But shortly after our visit, in April 2017, the original Mouth of the South was completely destroyed by an early morning fire. If an official cause was proclaimed, I missed it. I think I was too distraught that this culinary beacon was snuffed out before I could keep convincing the masses to try it. I waited to hear if and how and where they would rebuild.

In the back half of 2018, MotS successfully reopened in a new location — the former LoLo’s Chicken and Waffles/Famous Dave’s/Catfish Daddy’s building — on 72nd and Ames. Caught up in the hectic swirls of life and work and other blog “wanna eat there’s” – it took Jaclyn and I until this past week to get back to a place that honestly – had never left our hearts.

Two years absent from our palate, would it be everything we remembered? Would they stay true to what made them such a beacon pre-blaze? We both walked in starving, eager to find out.

Just crossing the threshold – I liked what I saw. Sure, it had some resemblance of a Famous Dave’s – think the ToGo area off to the side and then rustic, open seating throughout. But they draped it in the southern, Louisiana feel you’d expect. We were seated pretty quickly after our prompt 5pm arrival and dove into the menu.

More backstory than you asked for: I think I lived in the south, New Orleans specifically, in another life. I am downright smitten with the city, the vibe, the culture. And my very first visit to the Crescent City was drenched in my very first encounter with Hurricanes. The drink (Southern Comfort, Light Rum, Whalers Dark Rum, Hurricane Mix) … not the devastating weather phenomena. So I ordered one for my trip down memory lane and loved every sip.

Jac got a Kentucky Mule, which had Bullet Whiskey, Ginger Beer and Blood Orange Liqueur. It was crisp, refreshing and had just a subtle orange flavor, but not too overpowering. Although she decided vodka-based mules taste better, this one was still pleasant.

Crab Dip – $11

Excited to see the Crab Dip was still on the menu, we ordered a bowl without hesitation. This was one thing we both really enjoyed at the old location. The current version came with baked lump crab meat and poblano cheese gratin.

Either they changed the recipe or our memories served us wrong, but it didn’t taste like we remembered. Sure, it was good enough to pick at. But we felt a little disappointed and it’s not an appetizer we’d feel compelled to get again.

Gizzards – $8

Did you know a gizzard is an organ used to grind up the food a chicken eats? Thanks to my father’s affinity for hunting menus down that feature them – I did. Jaclyn did not. But she thought “fried” and “pepper jelly glaze” would make it alright. And maybe it would have if they came out hot and crispy. Instead they were lukewarm and gristly. It was a heaping portion, but the majority of them went in a box for my father who would be in town later that night. Neither of us has any desire to be so adventurous again.

Pork Tenderloin Sandwich – $12

Scared to say it out loud, I felt like our evening started out batting zero – oh-for-two where the appetizers were concerned. But I’d waited years to get back to MotS and still felt relatively undeterred when I ordered my main course. My heart wanted to order the Kickin’ Chicken Pasta – the only dish I had ever ordered from MotS before it burned.

But something about the Pork Tenderloin Sandwich caught my eye and Jaclyn ever so slightly pushed me that way. The sandwich was HUGE and was one of the few things that came to the table still hot: battered and fried, topped with house-made tasso, grilled jalapeños, gouda, spring mix, dressed with habanero remoulade. But the mountain of the sandwich was almost too much too handle – so I broke it down and enjoyed it item by item, versus all at once.

The flavor of each individual item was delicious – but I can’t help think the tenderloin is an afterthought, not the main star. If I ordered this creation again, I’d probably remove a few items. Not because they aren’t yummy, but because sometimes, less is more.

My onion rings emerged looking like the kind of onion ring I usually gravitate to – not too thick and has thin, kind of crackly, breading. But they were cold before I could enjoy them and I don’t think I had more than three or four.

Jac’s Smokepit Sandwich came stuffed with smoked pork and brisket, house slaw, comeback sauce and cheddar cheese. It reminded her of a Reuben with the meats, sauce and slaw. Not too bad. She liked the zingy flavor the comeback sauce offered. However, she only had one bite.

Already feeling full, she said the fried-like sandwich bread was too much. You know when you bite into something and it tastes really, really unhealthy? And not in a good way? Yeah, it was like that. She had trouble putting her conflicting thoughts into words. But, to sum it up, it was too much.

Pictured on the right: a much better view of the Smokepit Sandwich, provided by Omaha Magazine.

Smoked Gouda Mac – $5.50

The Smoked Gouda Mac was perhaps this visit’s saving grace. We both wished we’d just gotten two bowls of the creamy, smokey, gooey favorite.

Final Bites

Y’all, we struggled with this visit. You know the saying “don’t meet your heroes?” Maybe we learned a new take on that – “don’t eat your heroes?!? Except do – but, maybe different things? Ugh. We don’t even fully know how to explain our feelings on this one. And when we struggle to qualify our visit – we weigh it out:

The Good: Drinks, Sweet Potato Fries, Gouda Mac, generous portion size.

The Bad: Cold appetizer, Cold onion rings, Overwhelming Sandwiches, No Dessert menu (seen or offered).

And a scoop of real talk: $70 is too much to fork over if all you really loved was the fries and mac n’ cheese. But we remain torn because we don’t know if it’s fair to fault a restaurant because both of us got full fast – given that both of us ordered what turned out to be such large sandwiches. And it probably isn’t fair to criticize a menu item if we didn’t have more than one bite. And we certainly can’t say the Crab Dip isn’t good – it’s just different than our memory lead us to expect.

In hindsight – I wish I had ordered my old faves – Kickin’ Chicken Pasta and Boudin Balls. I have a feeling I’ll go back again and have exactly those items. Only then will I feel truly capable of telling you all whether or not Mouth of the South has fully, truly and deliciously risen from the ashes.

Because our experience *felt* like a fork down – but because we intend to go back hungry and order things we know we loved once upon a time – we’re giving Mouth of the South two forks sideways. It’s hard to give up on your heroes.

Martha and Jaclyn

forks up

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