I think I may have found the first nachos that would be approved by Dr. Atkins. That is, if he wasn't dead.
They're the nachos featured at the new Southern Moon Smokehouse, which took over the space previously held by the troubled Holy Smoke BBQ on Curry Ford Road in Orlando, a converted Eckerd's drug store next to a Winn-Dixie. The nachos, a creation of chef and owner Bryce Balluff, are made with crispy pork skins instead of the more highly carbohydrated tortilla chips in a traditional nacho platter. A ladle of brisket chili, some cheese, a dollop of sour cream and some spicy jalapeno slices and you've got yourself a tasty appetizer that can keep you on your low-carb Atkins Diet (avoid the beans in the chili).
If you're a follower of the food truck culture you've heard of Balluff. He also has the Fork in the Road food truck, which features a more gourmet style of food truck food, such as escargot, pork belly and sweetbreads.
Most of what is offered at Southern Moon is more in line with a traditional barbecue joint, although smoked pork belly in on the menu here (on the menu, but unavailable when I requested it). The meats are smoked over hickory, pecan, cherry, apple and peach woods following brining and the application of a dry rub.
The half rack of St. Louis style ribs was the best of the meats I sampled. No gnawing necessary; the tender and delightfully fatty meat fell off the ribs whenever I tried to pick up one of the bones. And the smoky flavor and seasoning were front and center on the ribs.
They were less so with the brisket and pulled pork shoulder. Both meats were sufficiently moist and tender but neither had much to identify it as barbecue. I suppose we are meant to make it so by using one of the several sauces available. Five of them, actually, and designed to appeal to all regional tastes, which personally I see as a copout. There are Texas, Alabama, Kansas City and the two known types from the Carolinas. If you know what you like, you can request it. If you don't, you have to take a stab and hope it's the one you like. (The sauces are doled out in portion-control ramekins rather than provided in squeeze bottles on each table.)
Besides the barbecue, I also sampled the brisket chili, which was thick and had plenty of bits of meat in it. I happen to think that it's just fine to eat chili in the heat of summer. I also had the baked beans, which were unremarkable.
When Balluff first announced the new venture, in March, he said that the restaurant would also be a brewery. It is brewing its own sodas — I sampled a cream soda — but so far no beers have emerged.
Staff members are still finding their way and are for the most part friendly and welcoming. A little more guidance and training might help things gel a bit more. The interior appears to be mostly unchanged, although there seems to be fewer patriotic gewgaws and such.
But overall, Southern Moon is certainly a better barbecue restaurant than the one that preceded it, and it's nice to have the talents of a chef like Balluff in that part of town.
Southern Moon is at 3000 Curry Ford Road. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The website as it is at the present is pretty worthless, but you can see a copy of the Southern Moon menu with prices here. The phone number is 407-895-8076.