B10 South turned out to be an ace bistro, attached to a really popular (at least this month) big nightclub named LuX.
It's not easy to pull off a nightclub/restaurant combo - there's always the danger of one dragging down or overwhelming the other, and this Calvert Street address has seen more than its share of comings and goings. Things might work out better here, for several reasons.
One is that there's a real effort to keep the restaurant and nightclub operations separate, both physically - B10 South is on the bottom level, LuX is above it - and thematically. Another is that B10 South's dining room and bar are pretty swell-looking nightspots in their own right - they have the sleekly contemporary good looks of the recently departed Ixia, minus the theatrics. Think shimmering beaded curtains, recessed candlelit niches and cobalt-blue details. And think big.
But the best reason is that the menu and the preparations are engaging and impressive. I don't know how much of chef Danielle Kposowa's menu is a holdover from a previous kitchen, but we liked what she and her crew were sending out for our dinner. The restaurant calls Kposowa's menu "Southern American Fusion," and that's close enough.
"Contemporary Southern cuisine" would work, too, if that phrase suggests a very careful and respectful polish applied to traditional Southern food like fried chicken, jambalaya, and shrimp and grits. Nothing too pushy or show-offy, and sometimes the only thing that would qualify the food here as fusion or contemporary is that it's served on long white plates.
The chicken that came with a straight-up chicken-and-waffle dinner is some of my favorite fried chicken ever. The batter tastes so good, crunchy, with a very light, clean taste. The chicken underneath is tender and tasty, too. I hardly ever finish a fried chicken dinner, but I did this time, and wanted more.
We dragged some of the kitchen's frying technique out of a sous-chef who dropped by the table to see how we were doing. It might not be the traditional method, but it works, and it's very, very good to see a graduate of Baltimore International College putting training on the plate.
The shrimp and grits were unusual because the shrimp were battered, which is kind of weird. But when you can batter and fry things like this, flaunt it. Good creamy, cheesy grits underneath, too, flecked with Tasso ham. The jambalaya had a good cayenne kick to it, and the chicken, shrimp and chorizo were all nicely prepped and cooked. The portions here aren't huge, but the prices aren't, either.
These followed a few appetizers that were mostly promising but stopped just short of full satisfaction: fried calamari that was overcooked, detracting from its nicely considered sweet chile sauce; and fried oysters that looked undersized on the plate but were served with tasty, lightly battered fires and a Cajun dipping sauce so good you'd dip your napkin in it. Buffalo chicken wings were quite nice, clean and meaty.
And good news to finish. The only dessert was a quite perfect homemade sweet-potato pie.
We were the only customers dining here. Our waitress seemed surprised, and pleased, when we told her we lived in Baltimore. I think the sporadic walk-up business here early in the week must be conventioneers and tourists.
Sometimes - make that most of the time - it's not much fun being the only diners in a restaurant, especially one as big as B10 South. But sweet service helps, and so does some mellow R&B, played at a relaxed level. We decided this would be a great place to come before a concert at the nearby Rams Head. If we worked nearby, we would want to drop by, at least for happy hour, and definitely for when we want some great fried chicken and waffles.
On the menu
* Calamari: $8
* Fried oysters with french fries and coleslaw: $8
* Buffalo chicken wings: $8
* Shrimp and grits: $16
* Chicken and waffles: $14
* Jambalaya: $13
Where: : 10 S. Calvert St.
Contact: : 410-528-8994
Open: : 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 4 p.m.-midnight Fridays and Saturdays; closed Sundays and Mondays
Credit cards: : VISA, AMEX, Master Card, Discover
Appetizers: : $7-$10
Entrees: : $13-$18
Food: : *** (3 stars)
Service: : *** (3 stars)
Atmosphere: : ** 1/2 (2 1/2 stars)
[Outstanding: **** Good: *** Fair or uneven: ** Poor: *]