The Southland Whiskey Kitchen is the latest project from the group that also operates the seven-strong Casa del Matador chain of restaurants. It's a slick and professional production that already feels like part of its own branded chain; it's right at home alongside the posh and glossy storefronts of Northwest 23rd. The food on offer is BBQ and Southern standards, and a menu of around 150 whiskeys—nearly the entire OLCC catalog, plus special orders—supports the name.
You'd better not open your doors in Portland without a competitive hamburger, and Southland's BBQ Burger ($11 with fries, a great value) is a strong offering.
Southland's fried wings are smoked first—a rare treatment of this ubiquitous dish—and their version is excellent. Sweet, sticky, fully-rendered brown skin pairs with deeply smoky jumbo wing meat for a stand-out house specialty. Fried chicken ($14 for two pieces) is perfectly cooked, with juicy meat and a crunchy, dry skin that holds well. The dredge is very plainly seasoned, in line with what I suspect is Southland Whiskey Kitchen's tricky corporate directive to please all but offend none.p>Their BBQ items also aim for broadest appeal, which, in a town with this much good BBQ, is underwhelming. Brisket ($13-17) was thoroughly smoky but wan and dry, and like the mushy pulled pork ($12-16), had a nondescript rub. One could be forgiven for thinking the meats are kept plain in order for customers to simply dress them with the six light-bodied house-branded sauces on every table.
Southland Whiskey Kitchen is a reliable source of fairly priced, accessible, archetypal Southern fare that satisfies but—with a few exceptions—does not wow. It is a place to enjoy good whiskey in a flawlessly attractive, upscale-casual setting, but not for those seeking food with a distinct personality.- CHRIS ONSTAD