Modern Southern Table at Budd Dairy

G. A. Benton

Asked to describe the comforting yet vibrant food served at Modern Southern Table, chef/owner Sadaya “Daisy” Lewis replies, “From Sea Island Gullah [a distinct African American community, culture and cuisine that developed off the coasts of Georgia, the Carolinas and Florida] from Alabama soul food to Louisiana Cajun, we offer a tour of the South.

Lewis’ personal culinary tour got off to a quick start. After her mother was diagnosed with cancer, 9-year-old Daisy was ‘shipped’ from Cleveland, Alabama, so her Southern grandmothers (she has three) could teach her how to cook for her family in the ‘Ohio.

“I was forced into it, but quickly fell in love with cooking,” Lewis recalls. Because of her grandmother’s baptism by the fire of the stove, food is inextricably linked to family for Lewis.

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Fast forward through an MBA at Capital University, a restaurant business, a food stand at a Zanesville mall, and a blowout win on Food Network Food court wars. That brings us to Modern Southern Table landing in a treasured spot in Cameron Mitchell’s Budd Dairy Food Hall, launching in 2021.

The uniformly delicious dishes she serves there are based on recipes that Lewis transcribed by watching her grandmothers cook without recipes – and which Lewis then “modernized” to make the food “less bland”.

Among the entrees at his restaurant are: crispy, superior, cornmeal-crusted fried catfish with a hint of chili; addictive Alabama Fried Chicken with juicy meat under a flaky, golden, extra-crispy crust; and a soulful chicken and sausage gumbo with a slurpable broth.

The sides also shine brightly. They include tender, crisp, bubbly collard greens; soothing candied yams; Geechee red rice; macaroni and cheese that everyone will love; and a remarkable black-eyed pea salad brightened up with tomatoes, cucumber, vinegar and peppers.

Next up: In a December interview, Lewis revealed plans to add Texas-style barbecue to the culinary tour.

Accompaniments

Fried Crimson: ‘Alabama’ tops Lewis’ terrific fried chicken menu list because she learned how to cook it in the football-obsessed state and because the meat is treated with a secret seasoning blend purchased from a supplier from Alabama. Another Lewis secret: She avoids the common trick of brining buttermilk chicken, saying it leads to “soggier meat.”

Good Red: Geechee red rice is as rich in flavor as it is in cultural interest. Topped with bell peppers, paprika, tomatoes, bacon and tangy smoked sausage, the Low Country Lewis highlight (“Geechee” is almost interchangeable with Gullah) is likely related to African jollof rice and Cajun jambalaya, which is probably related to paella.

Modern South Table

1086 N. Fourth St. (inside Budd Dairy Food Hall), Italian Village

614-505-2637

This story is from the February 2022 issue of Monthly Columbus.

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