Worth the Drive: Southern Comfort
Southern Comfort: Traditional favorites made with the freshest ingredients
By Jennifer Kornegay
What’s in a name? At Southern Comfort in Hope Hull, a lot. The moniker is a spot-on description of what you’ll find inside: Southern food, including Alabama-style barbecue, and comfort, from the delicious preparations of the dishes you grew up with to the friendly service.
Walk past the pig logo on the front door and a sincere “Welcome home!” from one or more of the wait staff greets you before you’re quickly seated. Drinks come out fast, and if you know what you want, an attentive server will take your order in a jiffy.
But this is no time to rush, because while you’ll probably recognize everything on the menu, this is not your average meat ’n three lunch place. Southern Comfort’s owner Tripp Mauldin is a classically trained chef. The Montgomery native graduated from Johnson & Wales University’s culinary school in Colorado and cooked in San Francisco and Napa Valley, Calif., before returning home and opening the restaurant in early November 2014.
Don’t worry. That doesn’t mean he’s messing around and “fancying up” your favorites; his background mainly influences his ingredient choices. “I wanted to do Southern staples, but I wanted to do them with the best, freshest ingredients,” he said. “And to make everything from scratch, here in-house.”
There are no frozen or processed foods lurking in the kitchen at Southern Comfort. Sauces and dressings don’t come from a bottle. The barbecue is smoked in the pit out back. And you can taste this attention to detail on every plate.
Tripp is especially proud of his barbecue, and after a few bites of his smoked chicken quarter with white sauce, you’ll be proud of him, too. Soft shreds of yard bird come off the bones clean, and the pepper and vinegar punch of the mayo-based condiment (one of our state’s most famous claims to barbecue fame) amplifies the subtle flavor of the smoke-soaked meat.
Other standouts include fried chicken (Tripp believes they’ve got some of the best anywhere), country-fried steak, fried okra, collard greens and pulled pork, which you can dress with one of several homemade barbecue sauces. The one dubbed “spicy” packs a hint of heat that plays perfectly with the sweetness. The Dirty Fries (crispy potato slivers smothered in gravy and cheese sauce) are a necessary indulgence. And Tripp’s twist on beanie wienies will spark childhood memories.
Tripp is also using his barbecued meats in some refreshing ways, adding them to classics from regions even farther south than central Alabama. Try the barbecue Cuban sandwich or the barbecue chicken quesadilla.
And since no self-respecting Southern lunch would be complete with out dessert, Tripp whips up several sweet treats for his guests. The banana pudding is everything you’d expect but presented with a little extra flair, nestled in a mini-Mason jar under a cloud of real whipped cream.
In keeping with the Southern traditions the restaurant is honoring with its food, Southern Comfort is a family effort; Tripp’s parents are co-owners, and his mom Morning is usually there with him, serving her son’s dishes with a smile.
Next time you’re in need of some home cooking and the warm fuzzy feelings that come with it, grab a table at Southern Comfort. You’ll be fulfilled (and filled) by the familiar dishes offered and elated by Tripp’s expert execution of them.
210 Wasden Road, Hope Hull, AL
Jennifer Kornegay travels to an out-of-the way restaurant destination in Alabama every month. She may be reached for comment at email@example.com. Check out more of Jennifer’s food writing, recipes and recommendations on her blog, Chew on This at www.jenniferkornegay.com.