This standout side dish from Alabama restaurant Helen embodies the flavors of summer

Fried corn, blistered shishito peppers, and housemade white barbecue sauce combine for a flavor explosion
Corn side dish from Helen

Photo by Gordon Sawyer

The smell of rib-eye steaks sizzling on an indoor grill brings Rob McDaniel right back to his grandmother’s house in Oneonta, Alabama. His vivid memories of her cooking inspired him to become a chef, and now his downtown Birmingham restaurant, named Helen in her honor, is garnering national accolades for its Southern-inspired cuisine. “I wanted a place where people would walk in and feel that same feeling—when all your senses are piqued,” McDaniel says. And while steaks are a popular menu item, a la carte sides offer sensory experiences of their own. In this standout dish, corn is sliced from the cob and quickly fried (causing it to curl up in “ribs”), then served with blistered shishito peppers and a housemade white barbecue sauce. Seasoned with spices including sumac and dried chilis and topped with queso fresco and cilantro, it is a spicy, citrusy, mildly smoky delight—and the perfect complement to a grilled rib-eye.

This article appears in the Spring & Summer 2022 issue of Southbound.