August 22, 2007 | Insatiable Critic

My junk food cravings get a workout at Southern Hospitality. Photo: Steven Richter
My junk food cravings get a workout at Southern Hospitality.               Photo: Steven Richter

 I suspect you Justin Timberlake fans (plus the guys who follow you anywhere) will haunt Southern Hospitality hoping to spot your crush sipping Mountain Dew in a back booth of this raffish joint he’s fronting. There’s no sign of that hottie tonight as we brave the tussle and 80’s disco throbbing full blast. Just a clutch of babes pretending to eat, an army of guys (sucking beer from the bottle), and sun-burned slackers gasping as a bartender shakes cocktails and twirls real flames. Sitting at the bar stone-faced, chattering away with, I’m going to guess, her social worker, is a grey-haired woman. Talk about diversity.

A bouncy hostess in cowboy boots trots us to a table in the rear still sticky from its previous gorge, away from flame throwing but not the roar. I catch a flash of a crooner sketched in black on red on a mural behind me.  “Is that Justin Timberlake?” I ask my pals. I have to confess I wouldn’t recognize JT if he walked by juggling a couple of his ossified biscuits.

“Gael. That’s Elvis,” my pals cry in unison.

Well, step on my blue suede shoes. It is indeed young Elvis on the red wall behind me. Is that Timberlake modesty?  Or Memphis branding? Nice touch, Justin.

 So many darlings waiting for you, Justin.                                                  Photo: Steven Richter

             Cameras emerge from our pockets flashing, as my friends, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg ( capture my finger pointing to Elvis. They have an illustrated web journal too.  And then more flash. We’re immortalizing the nachos -- a scary swamp with delicious pulled pork, $4.95 extra. Surprise, this daunting mess is not just edible, it’s almost delicious.

The hostess spies our dual camera action. “May I take your picture?” she asks thinking us just the usual tourists. No thanks, we say, giggling, not wanting to confess we’re shooting the chicken -- crusty southern fried bird, juicy and good.  Andrew, a self-designated authority, even approves the tater tots.

 Granted the corn bread could be sugared plastic. Biscuits taste like salty cardboard, fried green tomatoes aren’t even green. Still I can’t stop myself from eating the stuck together onion rings. I try slapping my hand.

 I urge my pals to sample the smoked Memphis ribs and skip the dried out baby backs. Everything comes on a hill of soggy French fries. It takes four or five tastes to be sure they are as bad as I think they are.  I want to kill myself for eating them. Too bad none of us brought some Lipitor to sprinkle on all these killer goodies.

Cold mac’n’cheese is an insult even in junk food heaven, but a sizzling replacement disappears in just minutes. The server leaves both congealed portions on the table, watched our cameras capturing the ignominy and lingers offering to take our picture yet again.

 It’s impossible to predict what the kitchen will be doing a week from now. Not this pitiful peach pie, I hope. No promises.  The nachos we actually gobbled could slouch into pure garbage with an angry slam of a frying pan or a forgotten rack ignored on the smoker.

   We leave, exhausted from shouting. I feel sickly and hate myself for eating. Remorse at what I’ve consumed weighs heavily.  Or is that just indigestion?

1460 Second Avenue between 76th and 77th. 212 249 1001


Patina Restaurant Group