Andouille Corn Dogs ($9)
The andouille sausage is moist and snappy, but lacks flavor. Good thing the light, crisp batter and hot mustard are there to back it up.
Plancha-Seared Montauk Squid ($8)
The smokiness imbued by a ripping-hot plancha gives this dish an almost wok-cooked flavor. The squid is charred and tender, and the shishito peppers are still bright green and crunchy. This is the best dish in the house.
Three Cured Meats ($16)
I love eating country hams like prosciutto, but this one (from Burgers' Smokehouse) had an offputting fishy aroma. The boiled city ham was better. Like many of the dishes, the rough country paté could have done with some more salt, but the house-made pickles were great.
Statesboro Stew ($8)
It looked fantastic on the menu and decent on the plate, but fell way short in the mouth, despite its promising shrimp and andouille base. Chunks of overcooked sausage offered little in the way of smoke, salt, or fat. Note to the kitchen: root vegetables should not be cooked al dente.
Baja Salad ($11)
Tasty and generous, but rough chunks of raw vegetables with a mild vinaigrette (I didn't get any of the jalapeño described on the menu) and a sprinkle of cotija cheese is nothing you couldn't throw together at home in minutes. For $11, you'd expect a little more work to go into the dish.
Shrimp and Grits ($13)
Creamy, buttery, and delicious, with a soft fried egg to push it over the top. Given the quality of the grits themselves, the shrimp are almost extraneous (though a welcome and well-executed addition).
Thick cut and bursting with potato flavor, eat them quick, because the glass jar mason jar they come served in traps in steam and quickly turns them soggy. Ask for extra salt on the table—you'll want it.
Fried Chicken ($20)
A perfect example of what's right and wrong at Peels. The chicken is moist and the coating is peerlessly crisp and perfectly browned, but both lack flavor. With fries, you can always add salt at the table. With chicken, if the bird's not brined or seasoned properly to begin with, there's not much you can do after it's been cooked.
Finally, some flavor! The okra and corn-based succotash was flavorful and well-cooked, which in the South, means soft. The Southern-style cornbread (which, unlike Northern cornbread has no sweetness) might be the best in the city. Tender, fatty, and packed with corn flavor with a crisp, deep-brown crust.
I don't think they offer it, but it'd be worth asking for a side even if you don't order the succotash.
Maine Diver Scallops ($24)
Another winner. The scallops couldn't have been cooked any better. They boasted a sweet, deeply caramelized crust and a tender, center just this-side of rare. A salad of shaved carrots, radish, and greens brings a welcome light spot to the hefty menu.
Pork Loin ($24)
The best part of the dish was the mashed sweet potato, which was sweet and fragrant with pumpkin-pie spices, if a little gluey. As with other proteins, the meat was well-cooked, but bland. The crabapple compote was mealy and skippable.
Sauteed Mustard Greens ($6)
I love the bitter, peppery bite of mustard greens, especially when they're cooked down until almost melting. Here, they're a little undercooked for my taste, but delicious nonetheless.
Hush puppies ($6)
Like the batter on the corn dogs, these hush puppies are light, crisp, and fresh, with a slightly custardy center.
It's tough to beat vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, brownie bites, nuts, and pretzels. A fine and fitting dessert.