Despite our eager anticipation of its summer arrival, we hadn’t had a chance to review Southern Belle until now. Recently, we went with a 12-person birthday swarm to try out a bit of Southern hospitality in the French Concession – particularly the Southern hospitality that guarantees a ¥100 all-you-can-eat grilled chicken wings and jumbo beef-pork hotdogs until 11pm (tack another ¥100 for open bar).
According to its website, Southern Belle is a celebration of the American South, its food, drink, music and culture,” offering “one of the best tasting and best priced BBQ’s in Shanghai ribs, chicken leg quarters, chicken wings, burgers, dogs, and kebabs.”
In that theme, the interior reflected a Savannah parlor with plush couches, antique lamps, and wooden bookshelves; the entirety of the restaurant was filled with Southern iconography. The logo even referencing the Confederate flag (although there was an ill-fitting, questionable painting of a pin-up girl with a parasol above the fireplace) and the bathroom was furnished like an outhouse. We sat in wicker chairs on the spacious veranda to enjoy the night breeze.
Our tables were thoughtfully stocked with complementary popcorn that was once-upon-a-time freshly popped. The barbecue chicken was their probably the best offering (¥45), as were their Southern kebabs (¥70). Southern Belle provided three delectable sauces; John’s Carolina BBQ, the All-Rounder, and sweet bourbon BBQ.
Unfortunately, there was only one grill at the front of the restaurant. While our party (and a nearby 20-person reservation) no doubt would put the strain on any kitchen, we’re firm believers that restaurants should be able to serve their size… at least somewhat. The wait was entirely too lengthy, and we would have been plenty angry if we could not capitalize on our all-you-can-eat special. Luckily our waitresses extended the time deadline. Even if the kitchen was inexcusably slow, staff was friendly.
We’d recommend getting something barbecued or grilled, as the Cajun shrimp gumbo (¥40 large) and Cajun jambalaya (¥35 large) were just passable. We ordered none of their signatures sandwiches (¥40-60), although the names Pastrami Po’ Boy and Uncle Monte Cristo were rather intriguing. Sadly, the portions weren’t Southern sized.
We found the Southern-inspired drinks menu, specifically the bourbon, was rather impressive. Our party had just missed the extensive 2-8pm Happy Hour special (2 for 1 Bud draft, house wines, and house pours), but we were welcome to the ¥10 bucket of leftover beer. Cocktails were delicious; the Florida Hurricane (¥50), Mississippi Mudslide (¥55), and Lynchburg Lemonade (¥60) were our favorites.
Desserts were also modestly portioned, but we enjoyed the selection, which included a variety of cookies (¥20) and pecan pie (¥30) (a helping of ice cream on top for an extra ¥10). Upon mentioning we had two birthdays at our table, we got two slices of Mississippi pie (¥40) on the house, as well as a round of shots of Arkansas Toothpicks (Kahlua, tequila, and lime). Cigars are also sold as an after-dining treat.
Our thoughts – Southern Belle is probably better with a smaller group of not enormous appetite. Especially since it means you’ll most likely get a chance to talk to owner Sean Fitzgerald, who like any refined gentleman is adept at pleasant conversation and incredibly sincere about absolving your grievances. If you go, try out the Tuesday trivia night.
Southern Belle (美之咖啡酒吧) is located on 433 Changle Lu, near Xiangyang Bei Lu, French Concession (长乐路433号, 近襄阳北路); telephone: 13918188520.