Visit Mama’s Boy Southern Table and Refuge in SONO and experience some good old-fashioned southern hospitality and cuisine. The newest addition to SONO offers a Georgian-Carolina cuisine with the flavors and ingredients not seen on other Fairfield County menus; not spicy Cajun or Creole but grits, okra, shrimp, catfish, with a little fried chicken thrown in.
Fairfield County native and owner Greer Fredericks, and her business partner Ami Dorel, bring a southern feel to the décor, and flavors to the menu, from Greer’s years in the South. Overseeing the kitchen is Chef Scott Ostrander who recently relocated from Jacksonville, Florida. His previous restaurant, ‘Town, won the Robert W. Tolf Award for Best New Restaurant from Florida Trend magazine and voted one of Jacksonville Magazine’s Northeast Florida’s Top 25 restaurants. After graduating from the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, Ostrander worked in restaurants from DC to Florida and brings authentic southern cuisine to the Mama’s Boy menu. Ostrander is currently sourcing many of his ingredients from South Carolina while simultaneously building a stable of local farms, vendors and merchants.
As CTbites mentioned in the opening announcement, the warm and inviting interior of Mama’s Boy is reflective of the South and the servers’ attire adds a little north meets south attitude with “Kiss my Grits” emblazoned on the back. There are two dining areas; the front space includes a long bar and presents a vibrant and upbeat atmosphere while the rear dining area is more low key. The menu is separated into four categories, “Starters,” “Soup & Salad,” “Half & Full Plates,” and “Entrées.”
The “BBQ Pulled Pork” was my favorite Starter. The pulled pork contained great texture and flavors that were accented with a touch of spiciness from the jalapeño corn pancakes. The Mama’s Bourbon Q sauce added a deep rich element to the dish.
The “Charleston Crab Cakes” were served alongside a medley of tomato, corn, butterbeans, and lemon herb aioli. The cylinder-shaped cakes were full of crab and the accompanying vegetables were a perfect complement for sweetness and texture. The menu also offers “Deviled Eggs” with house-smoked Tasso, and okra pickles. The Tasso added smokiness to the creamy yolks, and the major difference between Mama’s and others is the pickled okra. Combining a piece of okra with the deviled eggs was like no other Deviled Egg I have ever tasted. The “Salt ‘n Vinegar Fried Oysters” were fried perfectly and were delicious with the addition of the vinegar.
The Soup & Salad contains two excellent options. My favorite was the “BLT Salad.” It was delicious, but not a reduced calorie recipe. It included fried green tomato, candied bacon, artisan lettuce, and topped with a buttermilk-herb dressing. The bacon was the star of this salad; delivering not only a sweet and crunchy component but the chef added pepper for a good spice level. The field lettuces were fantastic and the fried green tomato complemented the dish with a little acidity. I would prefer a slightly thicker tomato slice to balance better with the other bold flavors. The “She Crab Soup” was a modern take of a traditional southern dish. Mama’s Boys’ version was delicious, was loaded with chunks of crab meat, creamy with a great symmetry of flavors and topped with crab roe soffrito, a touch of aged sherry plus a few slices of green onions.
On each visit I ordered the “Shrimp and Grits” and it just kept getting better. On my latest visit the appetizer-sized dish contained three U-21 southern white shrimp, sitting atop Fall’s Mill grits, topped with house-smoked Tasso, spring onion, and finished with pimento cream gravy. Over the first months, the ratio of shrimp to grits improved to a more manageable ratio. The shrimp are now sweeter and firmer. The grits were fantastic; the texture was creamy with just a little crunch.
Mama’s Boys’ version of the classical chicken ‘n waffles appear as “The Little Yardbird.” Baby game hens were first marinated in pickle juice and hot sauce and then deep fried. The result was an incredibly moist meat with flavor and texture from the crispy coating. Paired with the waffles, bourbon infused NY sorghum and braised greens; this was one of my favorite dishes. The sauce is now more savory then sweet and I prefer the return to the more maple-syrup based option to brighten the dish.
And what is a southern dinner without fried catfish? Mama’s Boy offered its “Corn Bread Crusted Catfish” with Carolina Anson Mills rice, okra, Vidalia onion and smoked tomato. Catfish is unusual fare in these parts and this version could increase its demand at other restaurants. The filet was moist on the interior and crispy on the exterior while the corn bread coating gave a sweet component to the fish. The sauce was delicious and contained dices of both okra and additional tomato; the rice was a soft textural complement to the dish. A few drops of hot sauce would give the dish a little kick.
When I initially saw the “Mushroom and Dumplings” on the menu I wasn’t sure what to expect. Then I read the description, “potato gnocchi, exotic mushroom blend, herbs, and a sunny side farm egg” and I knew this was something I needed to taste. The potato gnocchi were sautéed to achieve a crispy exterior and then combined with several varieties of mushrooms including Mitaki, Oyster and Cremini. Sitting atop was a fried egg, awaiting the release of its creamy yolk, which added a great flavor and creaminess when released. The seasoning was slightly off on the dish I sampled with the gnocchi under-seasoned, a little too much vinegar in the mushrooms and a little too much salt sprinkled on top. This is definitely a re-try for my next visit.
Save room for one of the best desserts, Mama’s Boy’s Pecan Cheese Cake. A creamy wedge of moist cheesecake was accented with a sweet topping of maple and pecans. This was a perfect way to end the evening.
Overall Mama’s Boy Southern Table and Refuge is an excellent choice in SONO. The food is creative, inventive and offers a new cuisine to the area and the atmosphere is relaxed, fun and very southern.
Mama’s Boy Southern Table & Refuge
19 North Water Street - South Norwalk, CT - (203) 956-7171
- BBQ Pulled Pork
- Charleston Crab Cakes
- BLT Salad
- Shrimp & Grits
- Little Yardbird
- Pecan Cheesecake
- Salt ‘n Vinegar Fried Oysters
- She Crab Soup
- Corn Bread Crusted Catfish
Needs a revisit:
- Mushroom and Dumplings
- John’s Island Frogtown Stew