Southern food is bae. It’s hearty, personable and fun on its own, but The Social Club’s Blair Wilson is kicking it up a notch with his personal touch on the restaurant’s latest menu. This isn’t the time-tested American-inspired fare you’re used to — it’s so much better.
Located inside the Surfcomber off 17th and Collins, the Miami Beach eatery cranks out brunch and dinner daily for hundreds of guests, all with a kitchen that’s a little bigger than your bathroom. It’s a daunting task, but the Virginia-born chef takes the challenge in stride. What he and his team are able to create out of such a small space is incredible.
A former saucier, Chef Wilson is all about sauces and flavors — his food is a multi-sensory experience. From the moment the dishes hit the table, the scent draws you in. We started off with a basket of Southern hand-rolled biscuits and never looked back. Always rolled by hand, these little bites of heaven are airy yet sturdy and vanished from the table almost immediately. They came with delicious honey butter, pepper jelly and bourbon bacon jam, so it’s no surprise why they were so popular.
The pickled peach salad will change your life. No lie: If all salad was this damn good, we’d become vegetarians. It’s insane how such a simple salad can pack so much flavor. What is this sorcery? We’re going to start putting goat cheese crema on everything.
Another highlight was the Cypress Creek alligator. Buttermilk-fried, tender and moist, the delectable dish is both sweet and savory; the Paradise Farms honey is the perfect counterbalance to the plate’s salty side. And in case you forgot Chef Wilson was an awesome saucier, the lamb empanadas and their housemade harissa hot sauce will undoubtedly remind you. Overheard at the table: “This sauce is everything.” That statement says it all.
Our Taco Tuesdays are much more exciting now that we know about TSC’s smoked porchetta tacos. Again, the tacos can stand on their own, but Chef Wilson infuses them with an n’duja hot sauce because of course. You’re probably wondering what n’duja is. Well, think of it as spreadable pork, so you basically have pork on pork in this dish. We squealed with delight.
A charred octopus rounded out our small plates (for the time being). With a perfectly dressed salad and a firm, flavorful cephalopod, all of the plate’s elements fused together wonderfully — just the right amount of salt and heft of flavor to make this a winner. The seafood focus continued with the first of our entrees: blackened Florida shrimp. Thick, hefty shrimp and pencil-cob grits are the cornerstones of this menu crowd-pleaser, and a shrimp mole sauce brought the plate full circle.
Somehow, we developed a second stomach during our meal and were able to squeeze in a pan-roasted heritage chicken and 96-hour St. Louis ribs. The former featured a shitake-brussel hash and cast-iron twice-baked potatoes that we could scarf down all day every day. And that light glaze of a housemade habenero-honey sauce … wow. The latter dish is just as good — it just depends what you’re in the mood for. Regardless, make sure to complement your main with a side of chorizo fried rice or pimento mac and cheese (or both).
Due to kitchen constraints, desserts are on the simpler side but no less appetizing than the rest of the menu. Two words: ricotta donuts. Order them, break them open, let them steam out a bit and then dunk them into the housemade dulce de leche and Nutella espresso sauces for a sweet finish.
If you can’t tell, we really really really really like The Social Club. There’s so much love and passion behind the dining experience that you can’t help but leave there feeling like a part of a family. And that feeling, combined with amazing food, makes The Social Club worth writing home about.