As a Southerner by birth, I take our cuisine very seriously. I am skeptical of any San Diego restaurants claiming to be Southern-inspired, but one bite of the biscuits at The Smoking Gun (555 Market Street), and I knew I’d be in for the real deal. Chef Kevin Templeton, of barleymash-fame, has prepared an authentic Southern menu at his newest restaurant. We had the chance to check out the latest creations last Saturday.

Our menus were delivered in a retro Pee Chee All Season Portfolio belonging to none other than Seymour Butts. If the grade school flashbacks the folder induced weren’t enough, our server handed us a ViewMaster straight out of 1985. Perplexed, we were told the cocktail menu was available to peruse using the ViewMaster. Sure enough, pulling the lever allowed me to scroll through bright pictures of the various seasonal cocktails offered.

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Faced with the daunting task of picking one of the smoked meats for our entrees, we opted for BBQ pulled pork and lemon chicken sliders so we could sample one of each. The BBQ pulled pork was tender with a slightly smoky, slightly sweet sauce. The pulled lemon chicken sliders featured green chili, course-grained mustard, and a slice of cheddar cheese.

While we selected smaller dishes for our main entree, it was all in an effort to order as many sides as I could without frightening my dinner guest.  You see, I am no vegetarian, but there is no happiness quite like a plate full of Southern-veggies happiness. We excitedly ordered the cornmeal fried heirloom tomatoes, white cheddar grits, baby buttermilk biscuits, and the BBQ and molasses baked beans. The smorgasbord arrived as soon as each dish was ready in the kitchen.

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The staggering of plates allowed us time to savor each dish—and boy did we. The cornmeal fried heirloom tomatoes were phenomenal. A hefty, crunchy crust gave way to a juicy tomato. Dipped in house made ranch, these tomatoes have the potential to change your life. Next came the white cheddar grits. Despite the relatively simple ingredients, it is amazing how often restaurants can screw up grits. This was not the case at The Smoking Gun. The consistency was perfect; somewhere in between wet sand and oatmeal. The flavor was rich and punctuated by the habanero brown butter slathered on top.

Third out were the baby buttermilk biscuits. These tiny, fluffy gifts from heaven disappeared so fast our server had to double check if we’d even received them. Only slightly embarrassed, we confessed to eating them quickly and asked politely for more. The final side dish to be delivered were the BBQ and molasses baked beans. I would describe the beans as what you’d get if chili and traditional baked beans had a love-child. They have the thickness of chili but not the added weight. What you get is an addictive bowl of goodness that could easily be a meal in itself.

Stuffed to the gills, we departed The Smoking Gun beyond satisfied and eager to return. There is just so much more to try! I’ve got my eye on the baby back ribs served with a side of baked mac n cheese. Oh and definitely more biscuits.

The Smoking Gun

555 Market Street

4PM-2AM Monday through Sunday