Southern Flavor – 11th and Bay, Columbus GA

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

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 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.

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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….

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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.

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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.

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I looked like I had gone grocery shopping for a small country. The collards are apple cider braised with pork belly bits.

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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?!

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 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.

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 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.