1300 on Fillmore was born from a wish to give back to the community. If you ask Chef David Lawrence however, he’ll have a slightly different story. “I just wanted people to go home,” he quipped. “I got tired of them coming over to eat, and I said to my wife, ‘Why don’t we just open a restaurant?’” The end result is 1300 on Fillmore, a relaxed and sophisticated restaurant serving “Soulful American” cuisine.
Walking through the door of 1300 on Fillmore gives diners a sense of going back in time. 1930’s jazz music plays throughout the restaurant, the huge track mounted lamps give the dining room its mood lighting and the tables and chairs are small and intimate. There are small candle sconces on every table, lit nightly as dusk arrives. When looking to the left, you will see the pride of the restaurant—the Heritage Wall. This wall pays homage to the Fillmore’s jazz history, and features pictures from the book “The Harlem of the West.”
Many great jazz legends such as Billie Holiday and the Afro Brothers have graced the Fillmore with their presence over the years. The Heritage Wall is part of the lounge area, so guests can sip their drinks while admiring the pictures and sitting comfortably on plush chairs. To the left of the wall is a picture dating from 1947, of the corner of Fillmore and Post. A private room is available for groups up to 22 people, and the main dining area can be separated by a curtain for semi-private parties. The bar itself is strikingly large with high seats, an extensive selection of spirits and wines, and a LCD screen displaying more images from the book. Large bay windows allow patrons to see the busy street traffic, but all that traffic somehow seems out of place: Muni didn’t exist in 1941, right?
We were seated by the host, who kindly directed me to the manager, Matthew Gunderson who is not only a manager, but a sommelier. His specialty is cocktails, and he uses fresh and seasonal ingredients to ensure good quality drinks. Since summer is upon us, the fruit of choice is blackberries. I ordered the highly recommended Blackberry Margarita, and it was delicious with tiny bits of fruit floating in my glass. The sweetness of triple sec and the slight tang of lime juice created an excellent drink. My husband chose the Bourbon Street Sunrise, which featured Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Sweet Tea Vodka (apparently only available in the South), lemon juice and ginger ale. It was a very smooth drink, unlike some cocktails where the spirit overpowers the more subtle ingredients.
As I moved from my cocktail to the wine list, I noted that wines by the glass range from $9 to $15 . The wine list is all Californian; no doubt this was done on purpose to continue 1300 on Fillmore’s theme of giving back to the neighborhood.
As I returned to our table following a quick discussion with Mr. Gunderson, my husband had already ordered the Freshwater Shrimp Hushuppies with ancho chile remoulade. The shrimp arrived in a white saucer with a neatly folded blue napkin underneath and the remoulade was presented in a small white cup. I was pleasantly surprised by the crispiness of the cornbread coating. The hushpuppies were light, well seasoned and lacked greasiness and the shrimp were plump and tender. The ancho chile remoulade had just enough spice to add flavor, and the heat was tempered by the mayonnaise in the remoulade.
Our waitress, Jessica, informed us of the specials for the day and noted that the signature dish was the Barbeque Shrimp N’ Creamy Grits. I decided to order that dish and a side of Fried Okra, while my husband chose the Black Skillet Fried Chicken with buttermilk whipped potatoes and pan gravy. While we were waiting, Jessica brought us a small bowl with four neatly cut triangles of cornbread. The cornbread was served with a small container of whipped honey-butter, and a slightly larger container of bright red jalapeno jelly. The warm bread crumbled almost on contact, which made applying the cold butter a bit of a challenge. Before becoming too discouraged, we discovered that the jelly made an excellent dipping sauce. Sweet and slightly spicy, the cornbread was so good that it was not long before we asked for more.
As we finished off the last of the cornbread, the Fried Okra with garlic aioli arrived. They were small, with roughly five or six of them in the dish, and the aioli was situated neatly next to the okra in the requisite white cup. The first surprise was that the okra was whole, not cut crosswise into rings. This made me nervous, because whole okra is more likely to possess a slimy texture, which can be unappetizing. I summoned up my courage, popped a whole piece into my mouth, and experienced my second surprise—somehow Chef Lawrence managed to keep the inside creamy and flavorful and the outside crisp and tasty. The garlic aioli’s smooth, cool texture contrasted with the okra’s outer coating, and I was pleased to note that the garlic was not overly pronounced in the sauce.
My husband’s Black Skillet Fried Chicken with buttermilk whipped potatoes and pan gravy arrived with three pieces of golden brown and juicy chicken surrounding a small island of mashed potatoes. Two melt-in-your-mouth biscuits completed the ensemble. Everything on the plate sat amongst a small pool of gravy. My husband took his first bite of chicken and his eyes lit up. He gave me a bite to taste and I agreed that it was indeed juicy, and very well cooked. The cornmeal crust, flavored with a hint of cumin, clung to the chicken like a second skin. This was impressive since most times coatings fall off or separate from the meat. Next, I tried the buttermilk whipped potatoes. They were light and fluffy, and I may have mistaken them for potato flakes had I not tasted the tiny lumps of real potato. As for the pan gravy, there was just enough of it to enjoy with the chicken and to mop up with the biscuit—a true Southern tradition.
Chef Lawrence’s signature dish, Barbecue Shrimp N’ Creamy Grits arrived soon after my husband’s meal. This was served in a shallow bowl, where the shrimp were stylishly arranged on the grits resembling synchronized swimmers in a pool. They were garnished with Roma tomatoes and a bit of basil and a thin layer of sauce surrounding the outside. Having grown-up on grits, I thought I knew what to expect, but I was wrong. I had never tasted grits that were so creamy and that needed nothing else to flavor them. The shrimp were cooked nicely, again without being too overcooked. The tomatoes, basil and sauce had a bit of a kick to them, but they balanced the very subtle flavor of the grits and matched the bold taste of the shrimp.
The Heritage Center houses the Fillmore Gallery and Yoshi’s, as well as 1300 on Fillmore. As a result, the restaurant does a lot of business with the Yoshi’s crowd, who are either on their way to a concert or coming back from one. The marriage between Chef David and Monetta White has resulted in hearty, soulful cuisine showcased in a 1930’s setting. Both are a product of cooperation, hard work and a great deal of love. Their desire to create a restaurant that highlights history, hospitality and hearty cuisine has been an overwhelming success.