One of the best ways to find a great place to eat is to get a recommendation from a friend. Which is why I headed to Columbus, Georgia, the birthplace of Coca-Cola, to check out 11th and Bay: Southern Table.
I was warned to either come early or come late, as 11th and Bay fills up quickly, so I arrived about 530pm. I situated myself at the bar so I could take in as much of the atmosphere as possible. In these moments I like to think of myself as like a fly on the wall, taking it all in. And in this case, eating and drinking it all in too.
I started by substituting my normal glass of wine with a signature cocktail: the Carolina Mule. It’s a twist on the classic Moscow Mule, but served with Virgil Kaine Ginger Infused Bourbon. #whaaaaaatttttttt
After my drink order, out came these amazing biscuits and apple butter. Probably could have eaten my entire weight in those, but you know, I had to actually order a few courses.
For an appetizer, choosing between the Southern Caprese and Chicken & Waffles was truly difficult. Ordinarily, I would have gone for the caprese, because I love tomatoes. 11th and Bay’s consists of grilled green tomatoes, house made fried pimento cheese, basil peach jam, creme fraische and sriracha. WHAT?? Sweet everything that is holy….
But I went for the Chicken & Waffles. Normally, I kind of tend to give that dish the side eye because honestly, it’s something I see everywhere. But I knew these would be special: buttermilk fried chicken tenders, orange spice sweet potato waffle, whipped sriracha butter, and maple syrup.
I don’t even know how exactly to convey to y’all just how awesome they were. I had to restrain myself so that I could actually eat the rest of the meal I ordered.
The entree. How does one pick between the Pemberton Pork Chop, the Shrimp N’ Grits N’ Belly N’ Bits, and everything else?! With a prayer, closed eye, and pointing on the menu, that’s how. Luckily for me, happy chance brought me the 11th And Bay Filet: a 21-day aged wood fire grilled 8 ounce filet, with a craft brown ale gastrique, white truffle fries, and vegetable of the day.
So, here’s a little tip for all y’all about how to order a filet, or any meat that requires a temperature request. Always go with the chef’s choice. They know what they’re doing. There was a time when I wouldn’t have known better and said something like “Well Done!” and probably sent, well, a steak knife figuratively right through the heart of the chef. Anyways. This was amazing.
And then there was more. So much more. I was told I would be sampling multiple sides. The Smoked Gouda Mac n’ Cheese. The Collards. The Black Rice Risotto.
I looked like I had gone grocery shopping for a small country. The collards are apple cider braised with pork belly bits.
Anyone who wasn’t totally deprived as a child is already aware that mac n cheese is amazing, but can someone explain to me how smoked gouda makes it SO MUCH BETTER?!
Also…Black Rice Risotto. I will have to make the nearly 2 hour drive back to Columbus just for that.
Oh but wait- I’m not done yet. Next was dessert.
Honey Cornbread Pudding: sweet cornbread, pecans, honey, dried blueberries, vanilla bean ice cream and butter-bourbon sauce. And the folks at 11th and Bay paired it with the Duchesse de Bourgogne, a Flemish red ale beer. I’ve had a lot of really good food across the South- and the experience here was among the best meals I’ve ever had.
It goes beyond just the amazing food, it’s something in the soul of the restaurant. You can tell that everyone here truly lives by the owners’ motto of “pull up a chair and stay awhile”. It’s incredibly refreshing, just like a tall glass of that Southern favorite- and Columbus original- Coca Cola.
Portions of this column were originally posted on Southern Bon Vivant, Girl Meets City: Columbus, Georgia by Molly McWilliams Wilkins.
Southern Flavor is a weekly column on The Southern Weekend exploring the best of Southern restaurants, chefs, farms, and artisans.