When South on Main first burst onto our restaurant scene, there seemed to be very little that would draw me to this restaurant. Sure, it seemed to be a darling of the dining landscape (including other writers on this very blog), and I could see the appeal. The menu was tight, the dishes were creative, and the ingredients were local. One thing the menu did not appear to be, though, was vegan friendly. So, I focused on finding food in other places, and I kind of forgot about South on Main.
A good friend, though, alerted me to an item the restaurant was promoting on its instagram account, something that was specifically called out as an item that could be made vegan. So, she asked if I’d like to go down and try it out that day. Sure, I though, and I made the trek from West Little Rock down to SoMa for a nice lunch.
Never having been inside South on Main before, I liked the clean and modern feel of the dining room, and I enjoyed the small touches of décor like the mason jar water glasses. The item we were in search of, the Hoppin’ John Veggie Burger, was clearly marked on the menu. Their social media account had alerted us that to make vegan, simply leave off the mayo and ask for a different bun. When I brought this up to our server, though, he seemed confused by the request and had no knowledge of the Instagram promotion. After a little digging, though, he seemed to have gotten it sorted out.
Hoppin’ John, a classic Southern dish made with black-eyed peas and rice, has become something of a signature dish for chef Matthew Bell and the South on Main crew, particularly when served up with the restaurant’s seared catfish. In this case, the dish was compressed into a patty to form the basis of a veggie burger much like the black bean patties so popular around town.
My black-eyed pea veggie burger was brought out on a crispy bun, topped with lettuce, caramelized onions, and jalapenos. The patty itself was very good, well seasoned and substantial. The toppings added gave spice and flavor to the burger. Without the mayo, however, the entire dish was a little dry, so be sure to ask for a side of mustard or an additional topping to soak into the bun if you order the vegan version. I accompanied my burger with a side of fries, which were fresh cut and crispy. You have got to love a fry that still has signs of the potato skin.
Beyond this dish, there isn’t a whole lot that would tempt a vegan to frequent this SoMa establishment. I hear they make a mean cocktail, but as it was a work lunch, I did not investigate. The Hoppin’ John Burger was fine, but it’s not a dish that would make me want a return visit. It’s good to know, however, that if a large group of friends wanted to dine here, I would not be stuck searching for something to eat on the menu.
Based on their creativity and love for local and fresh ingredients, however, I would love to see more dishes rotated in on their menu to showcase more plant based entrees. There is definitely a higher demand for vegetarian and vegan dishes, and local restaurants could really set themselves apart from the chains by responding to that demand with delicious, Arkansas influenced meals. A girl can hope.