The distinction between street food and takeaway could simply be semantics. By literal definition, a takeaway is eaten away from its place of origin – perhaps your home or car. Whereas street food is consumed… well, on the street, alongside where it was created, whether that’s a hot dog stall or an ice cream van. But what about street food that you eat indoors. Surely that’s a restaurant?
We found ourselves pondering this at Ryde’s newest eatery in what has, so far, been a bumper couple of years for exciting new venues in the Town on the Beach.
We were pretty much at the inception of Deep South Social, back when it was known as Deep South, ironically possibly the Island’s most northerly food wagon. Our lockdown walks were punctuated by tempting wafts from the tiny chicken shack which rocked up one day in Monkton Village. It was quite the sensation in a time when we were still cautious about eating out to help out. Scoffing our food companionably by the truck’s hatch brightened several Friday nights – and mornings too, when we popped down in daylight to sample the team’s breakfast toasties washed down with locally-roasted coffee.
Before long, it was clear that Deep South was on to a winner winner chicken dinner and, like Craft (Vegan Pizza) before it, transferred operations to permanent premises – in this case, the erstwhile Bendula, home of by far the Island’s best goat curry and a loss to the town’s international cuisine scene.
With walls freshened with a lick of trendy slate grey emulsion and comical funky chicken artwork – including Queen ‘Chicktoria’ and her brood – Deep South has rebranded as Deep South Social, presumably because of the addition of a licensed bar to its offering.
The menu is pretty simple; three mains, plus various sides and dips. There were also one or two extras, which we assume change from time to time. In the light of our fragranced candle we squinted to read the descriptors of each meal. The headline is crispy buttermilk southern fried chicken, served with or without bun and a selection of sides. We chose each of the chicken dishes, the third item on the succinct menu being meat-free falafel faux-fowl.
The reverse of the menu itemised the drinks. Alas the cocktails were not entertainingly-called ‘cock’-tails (wringing out the chicken theme to its tenuous limit), being the pre-branded product of the Isle of Wight Cocktail Co – another great local business which took shape during the pandemic. As it was Fri-yay, we both hit the booze; Peroni and Prosecco – the designer cocktails will have to wait for a rematch.
While the drink loosened our tongues, which flapped about accessible fonts, socialist utopias and the Byzantine processes of local government, the kitchen was prepping our dinners.
Our meals at Deep South Social were respectful of their street food origins, with the fast food restaurant addition of a tray which also doubled as a platter. This is undoubtedly a successful business model for KFC and Maccy D’s which don’t want to go to the trouble of paying anyone to wash up reusable crockery, but in a small restaurant like DSS, it is presumably for affectation, rather than economics. This meant that our chips cooled quickly and the chicken itself started to integrate with the tray paper, but we got the gist of the theme.
We gnawed our corn-on-the-cobs first. Hot and fresh, the crunchy cobs were textbook finger food. Insulated by a jacket of gloopy cheese roux and pimped with chilli and bacon bits, the special fries were pretty darned good. The peppery gravy added, well… perhaps a little too much pep for our tastes, but herbs and spices are usually the signature flavours of a fried chicken dinner. Peering into the depths of our box, we discovered what the neologists have dubbed ‘slaw’. Who needs ‘cole’ anyway?
Chicken meal £12
Chicken burger meal £10
Slaw + £2
Dirty fries £4
Prosecco x 2 @ £7 £14
The chicken though. That’s really what this meal is all about, and it didn’t disappoint. The ‘Queen of the South’ chicken burger was outstanding. A really solid mouthful of chicken, yet tender and moist with just a hint of spice. A satisfying great chomp inside a brioche bun.
The Southern-fried chicken meal came bunless, but with the same boneless and skinless buttermilk chicken as the burger, in a satisfying crispy-crumb coating. It was delicious and succulent, eaten hands-on like our ancestors would’ve approved of. Finger lickin’ luscious!
We enjoyed our Friday night at Deep South Social. We embraced the messy finger food – after all, only a wanker would want to eat corn-on-the-cob with metal cutlery. We preferred dunking our plain fries in the homemade garlic dip over the gravy; but the dirty fries needed no further embellishment. But either with or without a bun the chicken was the star of the show. Deep South Social is a good addition to Ryde Leisure Strip’s restaurant rooster. Sorry, roster.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.