When it comes to Southern comfort, Rex 1516 doesn't quite fit the bill
1516 South St.
Don’t Miss: The Pork Loin
Skip: Dessert — these alcohol–inspired dishes have some maturing to do
Philadelphia might be the southernmost northern city, but it is certainly not replete with Southern food (soul food and fried–chicken, perhaps, but what about hush puppies and collared greens?). Stationed aptly on South Street, Rex 1516 hoped to change all that in its debut; but where ingenuity is concerned, the restaurant has a long way to go.
Let’s start with what was good: a pork loin stuffed with cornbread and sausage ($21), the side of creamed spinach that came with my steak ($23), the chopped salad ($7) and the seitan part of the seitan meatloaf ($16), which was unexciting in dressing and accompaniment. Now onto the drab: the buttermilk roasted chicken ($18) and its entourage of over–buttered root vegetables, the quality of the strip–steak (too fatty and flavorlessly–behind in a world where cheaper proteins gnash at the heels of all but the best beefs), and the dessert — an IPA–infused chocolate torte swathed in pretzel pieces, which was tasty in the way that Oreo cheesecake at the Marriott is. It’s Oreos and cheesecake; you’ll eat it, like it and forget you ever did.
Such could, in a sense, be the mantra of Rex 1516. Return for a moment to the meatloaf, for which I was unusually excited. True to our very nice waiter’s praise, the chef did manage to impressively pull off the preparation of the often–tasteless wheat gluten; but to call it meatloaf is undeserved. Moistness is the marrow of meatloaf, the reason it is loved or loathed by everyone who tries it. Had the dish been sauced more generously, it would have gotten closer.
Before dinner, at Rex’s pseudo–swanky candlelit back lounge, we skimmed a cocktail menu that featured Mint Juleps and a drink infused with basil vodka, and settled on the Julep ($9) and a Lime Rickey ($8); both were fresh but lacked in flavor, too–watered down where they could have been charged with sugar and zest. From the decor we could tell the restaurant strived for old–world Southern charm; as with its food, the restaurant would’ve benefited from some simplicity.