It is simply indisputable that generations of hungry New Albanians have revered the South Side Inn as a veritable Mecca of the steam table, where heaping mounds of gristle, starch and carbohydrates could be consumed for precious little out of pocket.
At the same time, such “traditional” bills of fare hold slight interest for me, and when they do, I hope for a better grade of comfort food than South Side has offered, at least lately. The last time I ate there some eight or nine years ago, it was colossally underwhelming, with every item I tasted overcooked, bland, fatty, or all three.
In the midst of a long-term slide, the South Side Inn changed hands last July. According to the Tribune:
Court records show Joe Peevor is paying $150,000 to take over the South Side Inn; current owners Mark Troub and Jeannie Burchfield bought the restaurant eight years ago.
At the time, and in jest, I expressed the hope that Peevor, an Englishman, would convert the South Side into a British-style pub, complete with lumpy gravy, eel pie, mystery cutlets, fish and chips, a curry dish or two, and hand-pumped “real ale” to make it all worthwhile.
But seriously, no bad Limey food jokes here; I’ve had some pretty good pub grub in the UK, and perhaps there’d even be hope for that stray haggis. It goes quit well with Brown Ale.
On January 11, the Courier-Journal reported that the South Side had closed, and its status was uncertain.
When the South Side will reopen hasn't been decided, said Joe Peevor, who bought the restaurant in July with partner Angela Hawley.
Peevor, who is from England, said he closed on Dec. 29 because a condition for getting a long-term visa was that the business have an annual cash flow of $50,000 and it isn't generating that much.
Speaking of seafood, something always seemed slightly fishy about a foreign national supposedly doing good business in Florida before abruptly determining that a declining cafeteria in New Albany, Indiana with a rapidly aging core clientele was a better deal.
Now we’re told that yet another restaurant offering a strikingly similar menu will be opening five blocks away from the moribund South Side at 223 W. 5th -- the former Pigasus/Backwoods BBQ location:
Lancaster’s Cafe coming to downtown New Albany; Grandson of Tommy Lancaster leases former Pigasus building on West Fifth, by Eric Scott Campbell (Tribune).
“It’s set up exactly the way I want for what I want to do, cafeteria-style,” (Troy) Lancaster said. “Unless you want fast food, you’re very limited to what you can have in New Albany anymore.
Leaving aside whether Mr. Lancaster has ever noticed the existence of La Rosita’s (Mexican), Federal Hill (Italian) and Bistro New Albany (bistro fare) in downtown New Albany, and the opening later this week of Treet’s, the city’s first downtown bakery in quite a while, it’s naturally good to see a vacant building come back into play.
Whether we need more mashed potatoes and roast beef is another question.
And so, getting back to the South Side Inn, Peevor’s misfortune might very well be another owner’s ultimate gain. With Scribner Place and the YMCA being built only yards away, now would seem an ideal time for an entrepreneur with vision to break with decades of insanely conservative New Albany tradition and offer – gasp – something approximating healthy cuisine where the fried chicken used to drip onto newspapers and the lard-encrusted and sugar-laden pies cooled on window sills.
Dare we hope for a two- or three-way and a few progressive pints? Best hurry, lest either antiques or furniture starts being sold there.