I like to go out of my way every now and then to see what I might be missing. On my way back from an afternoon cruise around Johns Island, I stumbled across The Southern General and stopped in for lunch.
Moments after taking a seat at the bar in this dimly lit and cozy little shop, I settled into a local beer and opened the menu. My eyes were immediately drawn to the words “sweet potato” that popped up sporadically across the menu, but it was not in the usual manner. Typically, when I think of sweet potatoes, I imagine baked with butter and brown sugar or fried with cinnamon sugar and honey. Southern General takes it to a new level. Spicy sweet potato cream cheese and sweet potato garlic kimchi? Where have you been all my life? There are other eye catching ingredients used in their dishes – guavanero banana mustard, bourbon mushrooms – but I couldn’t get sweet potatoes off my mind.
My server recommended either the Sesame Shrimp, Super Butt, or the Cubano, so I decided to give the Super Butt a try. I don’t know whether it was a genius plan or a stroke of luck, but the ingredients in this sandwich work together perfectly on a functional and gustatory level. Just beneath the crispy toasted local honey white bread is a spread of spicy sweet potato cream cheese. This condiment not only adds a light sweet and spicy touch, but it also functions to create a barrier between the juices of the braised pork and relish. If there’s one thing I hate about barbecue sandwiches, it’s a soggy bun that disintegrates in my hands. The cream cheese keeps the bread crisp and juices in the meat, right where they belong. The tender house braised pork brings the meat of the flavor – pun intended – and the sweet onion mustard relish brings another sweet and zesty touch that pairs well with the faint sweetness of the cream cheese. Over all, this sandwich is a well balanced collection of flavors that will fill you up and have you longing to come back for more.
The cucumber salad, which comes standard with their sandwich options, is a delicious accompaniment to their bold and savory sandwiches. The thin sliced cucumbers, carrots, onions, and bell peppers are thin enough to have thoroughly absorbed all of the tangy flavors of the vinaigrette, but they are far from soggy. The veggies still retain a refreshing crispness that rounds out this side dish.
The owner, Chef Tim Erwin, came out and introduced himself and we had a pleasant conversation about how they work with other businesses on Johns Island to make Southern General a tight part of the island’s community. I was excited to learn that they work together with Seanachai, the Irish pub and social club next door. Seanachai doesn’t usually serve food, so you can order from Southern General’s menu and enjoy the delicious sandwiches while you delight in the full bar-service at the pub just next-door.
Tim also let me in on the fact that they’re going to be bringing on some new menu items in the near future, so there’s one more reason on top of the already delicious menu offerings to bring me back.