Walking up to the Southern Accent food truck, I'm eager to order the highly-anticipated soft-shell crab po' boy sandwich. It's a beautiful 70-degree evening and the sounds of friendly chatter and disc golf echo behind me. But to my dismay, they've sold out of seafood entirely. Owner and chef, John Morris, explains that his seafood was delivered to the wrong location.
Noting my crushing disappointment, he realizes that he has a small delivery that he can retrieve for me, if I'm willing to wait 20 minutes. True southern hospitality at its finest.
I grab an IPA from the neighbors, Bevel Craft Brewing, and peruse the art displays around 9th Street Village. Soon, I'm presented with a plate of breaded soft-shell crab, covered in a Cajun remoulade, sitting atop lettuce and tomato, all atop a French baguette.
"You have to enjoy the full experience," Morris suggests, handing me a glass of sweet tea. Southern Accent opened in April 2018, parked in the Gorilla Growlers lot off of Empire, and beginning to frequent events around Oregon such as Fall Fest and WinterFest. The cart became a permanent fixture at 9th St. in May.
"I wanted to provide a space where we could grow our fan base in a convenient location," says Morris. And loyal they are. Customers flock to events and festivals to get their fix for Southern Accent's fried shrimp po' boys and jalapeño cornbread waffles.
“…In the South, alligator is as common of a sighting on a restaurant menu as they are from your boat along the Delta.”—John Morris
All of the seafood dishes, including baskets of fried cod and Cajun fries, are sustainably sourced.
"I use domestic seafood due to the way the U.S. regulates their fishing techniques and their desire to preserve our oceans. Sustainability and quality are my first priorities when selecting seafood," Morris said.
Seafood isn't the only specialty, either. Fried alligator baskets and po' boys are fixtures on the daily menu. Sourced from Florida, Morris explains that "in the South, alligator is as common of a sighting on a restaurant menu as they are from your boat along the Delta." Of course, if you're not feeling adventurous enough to try the reptilian delicacy, baskets and po' boys are also offered with breaded chicken, line-caught Oregon cod, Gulf shrimp and locally-sourced braised pork.
Born in Mobile, Alabama, Morris gravitated toward a life in the culinary arts. When he wasn't pier fishing and crabbing, he often found himself alongside his mother in the kitchen, learning southern cooking. Growing up in the Deep South, Cajun cuisine was a staple in the household. With a family of seven, Morris had plenty of practice in perfecting his southern techniques.
Creole culture, including its culinary and musical influences, is what inspires the menu at Southern Accent. Living only an hour outside of New Orleans, Morris found himself frequenting the area to get his fix for the food scene and lively atmosphere. "Traveling to New Orleans so often instilled my desire to bring their rich culture and flavors with me wherever I went," he says.
With 22 years of experience in the restaurant industry, Morris is now pursuing his dream, serving up his own food.
"The food truck movement has provided the tangibility—with low overhead—to make restaurant entrepreneurs capable of funding their own ideas without the brick-and-mortar costs, along with the challenges of multiple partnerships," he explains. "I saw the opportunity to run with my own concept and do it in a way that stayed true to the ways of the South. I was able to purchase a food cart and make Southern Accent a reality."
Nancy runs Eat Drink Bend, which features cocktails and plates from local eateries, along with scouting restaurants, breweries and wineries to share stories from locally owned Central Oregon establishments. See her work at eatdrinkbend.com
444 SE 9th St., Bend