Son of a Preacher Man (Review)

Son of a Preacher Man delivers in the chicken department despite some kinks

Mar 18, 2015 at 10:06 am


hat passes for “good” fried chicken in this town always baffles me. Maybe I’m spoiled by remembering the delicious birds that my mother and grandmother — Georgia farm girls — put on the table just about every week during my childhood.

Here in 21st century Cincinnati, people rave about Hitching Post or The Eagle, but my taste buds aren’t enthralled by either’s. So imagine my smiles after finding a scrumptious version at the newly opened Son of a Preacher Man in O’Bryonville. And the fat, fluffy biscuit that came with the Sunday’s Best Fried Chicken dish was a first-rate example of its kind.

This new venture is a dream come true for owner Margaret Ranalli, who with her husband Roger also owns nearby Enoteca Emilia, itself an oasis of sophisticated dining in a neighborhood with few good foodie options. Ranalli says for at least seven years she has wanted to open “a funky, cool Southern restaurant.” When the building that housed What’s for Dinner and Eat Well Café became available almost a year ago, she signed a lease. Although it took a few months longer than she had imagined to get the place up and running because of building issues and a busy year at Enoteca Emilia, she opened for business early this year.

Ranalli had traveled extensively in the South and loved both the food and the emphasis on music in such cities as Memphis and Nashville, Tenn., and Charleston, S.C. When naming the new restaurant, she wanted something unusual. The title of a down-home Dusty Springfield song about falling for a preacher’s boy seemed just right.

We tried the place on a Friday night just a couple weeks after opening and found it busy but not slammed. The single dining room has new paint on the walls, contemporary, brightly colored furniture and light fixtures and artwork that evokes rural, backwoods pursuits. The menu is straightforward, with two soups, two salads, just three main dishes along with biscuit sandwiches and a handful of sides or “sharing” appetizers. 

A few signs the place was just getting off the ground greeted us right away. We noticed typos on the drink and food menus, a lack of clarity about which dishes included a side and occasionally spotty service. Two cups of soup arrived without spoons, and it took several minutes to flag someone down to rectify the situation. But the staff was unfailingly cheerful and the vibe in the room stayed upbeat all evening.

Drinks at this establishment consist mostly of bourbon shots, beer in cans and bottles, and a few featured cocktails. Oddly, the drink list gives prices for beer ($4 for PBR up to $20 for a large format ST Unearthly), while cocktails and bourbon shots do not include prices. When I asked our server how much they were charging for the Moonshine Willie (“iced tea du jour and a batch of liquor to match”) or the Whiskey Sour Mashup (bourbon, amaretto, lemon juice), he had to ask the bartender. Turns out, the featured cocktails were $9-$10.

We sampled those drinks, while others at our table ordered beer. I was a little disappointed in my whiskey sour — it tasted of juice a lot more than it did of bourbon — and also had a similar reaction to another drink, Sunshine Welma ($9), weak lemonade and some kind of flavored vodka. Things perked up when food entered the picture. The two aforementioned soups got things started: the hearty black-eyed pea and country ham ($4.29) was thickened with okra; while she-crab bisque hit all the right notes with cream, sherry and a sprinkling of crab meat on top. The portions were small — only a cup size is offered — and the bisque was not much warmer than room temperature. But both soups were well flavored and satisfying enough as starters.

For our main events, we tried a variety of offerings: Sunday’s Best Fried Chicken for me (two pieces, $9.89, or three pieces for $11.89); Low Country Shrimp and Grits for my husband ($14.29); Nashville Hot Fried Chicken on a Biscuit for our friend, Wally ($8.79); and Bourbon BBQ Meatloaf for his wife, Melissa ($12.89). Everything except the shrimp and grits came with one side, and we all got a biscuit, including of course for the biscuit sandwich.

The fried chicken was marvelous, and the spicy version on the biscuit sandwich was equally well received. Melissa liked her meatloaf along with her choice of side, garlicky mashed potatoes with brown gravy. The shrimp and grits disappointed, however: The dish was too soupy, over-spicy and the shrimp over-cooked. My husband only ate about half of it — and filled up with a second biscuit. My side of Carolina collard greens had more meat in it (bacon and pork shank) than I needed with the rich fried chicken. In fact, vegetarians will have few choices here; a couple of the sides seem to be meatless, as is the Tomato and Sweet Onion biscuit sandwich ($7.49).

While our party of four wasn’t thrilled with everything we ate or drank at Preacher Man, I’m guessing they will do just fine if they can maintain the high quality of the lip-smacking chicken and biscuits.

Son of a Preacher Man

Go: 3009 O’Bryon St., O’Bryonville
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.