“Miguel” might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of Southern or Creole cookery. But if you’ve followed Miguel Santana from the kitchens of erstwhile downtown bakery and restaurant Benvenuti to Battery Park Saloon (also now closed) to his innovative fusion cuisine at Northside Social, then you know he’s anything but a conventional chef. And growing up in Miami does technically qualify him as a Southerner. His eponymous Miguel’s Southern Kitchen (130 N. Delaware St., 317-955-0001) is certainly a nice addition to lunchtime choices in a classic high-ceilinged storefront that most recently housed a chicken roaster and before that a longtime newsstand. The gorgeously ornate tile floors with fleur-de-lis patterns are enough of a reason to stop by. Santana’s selective menu divided between comforting classics and Bayou favorites shows some careful forethought.
Lunch portions were plentiful and hearty, though they were a bit tepid when we stopped in, coming off the steam table with little or no steam. It’s too bad, given that the ambition here is beyond cafeteria food. Etouffee had a rich roux with plenty of veggies and shellfish with a decent undertone of spice, and pork hash contained big chunks of well-seasoned pork, though this was a bit to the greasy side. Meatloaf was the sort your Mom might have made, homey and flavorful, but a thick skin of ketchup on top dominated every bite.
Lightly sweet “soda jerk” beans proved a highlight with big al dented beans—a far cry from the mealy baked beans Hoosiers are more accustomed to. Triangles of cornbread made with blue cornmeal were sweet and moist enough to qualify as dessert. But you’d be wise to save room for an outsized square of bread pudding made from soft, thin layers of bread with streaks of bittersweet chocolate. A recent Facebook post says they’re open for dinner—just in time for the big game.