I am always ready to give a southern-cuisine restaurant in the city a chance, in case I find a gem where I can get some guilty-pleasure food when I'm above the Mason-Dixon line.

However, Old Devil Moon is not it.

They're at least close with the decor, but they've NY-ified the Christmas lights. They're strung in abundance. Sure, you'll find the lights in the south, but some weak single-strands hung where ceiling molding would be, hanging unevenly, maybe a single drape-y light garland above the bar would be more authentic.

Unfortunately, the food isn't even close. The cornbread was so dense, wet and heavy I had to eat it with a fork to not get oil on my hands. It wasn't butter supplying the moisture. I didn't eat much. I grew wistful for the impossibly light, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth cornbread I've had in Virginia. I can't recall even one nice restaurant in the south getting it wrong, and the odds of getting good cornbread in any number of nondescript local joints are good. One can't judge a (cook)book by its cover in many instances (which is why I'm so willing to give untested places a try).

The chicken-fried steak was barely recognizeable as such. They used meat the thickness and flavor of a steak-um, and the fried part was more like a poorly-done battered sautee that was allowed to steam in the pan rather than, um, sautee. I much prefer the 1/4 to 1/2 inch steak (seasoned prior to being battered so the meat has flavor), coated in a seasoned batter (c'mon, how hard is it to put a little salt & pepper in the batter?) cooked in pan with at least a 1/4 inch of hot oil (you know, the ''fried'' part of chicken-fried steak).
The gravy fell prey to the so-far consistent tendency for ''southern'' restaurants in Yankee states to cover food with tasteless gray who-knows-what and call it ''gravy''. Any true southern place would go out of business in short order with gravy this bad. And I can't say it's just this one place--NO RESTAURANT that I've tried up here can make good gravy. The Dairy Queen in Crozet makes gravy that tastes like a savory sauce handed down from Mt. Olympus compared to the stuff up here. There are a few places up here I suspect would actually do a good job with it, but I haven't seen it on their menus. I might have to call around to see if they have a gravy meal as a special on certain days or something. But I digress.

The mashed potatoes by themselves were ok, but a healthy dose of butter would have helped (I actually did my best to eat only the outside edges to avoid the so-called gravy). The slaw was bizarre. It was more of some sort of multi-colored-cabbage salad with a bad vinaigrette than a true ''slaw'' (and no, I don't automatically rule out anything vinaigrette-y as not slaw). Whoever came up with the recipe for this stuff, well, I just don't know. The restaurant probably should have gotten their slaw recipe from someone who has actually eaten slaw before.

I will not be making a return visit.

Old Devil Moon stands as yet another example of why Manhattanites who haven't set foot anywhere south of Brooklyn have this idea that southern food is inferior to New York food. Perhaps it is all a big conspiracy to make New Yorkers feel validated in their choice of living somewhere where people are rude, the weather is cold most of the year (except the two months when it is hot and all public places reek of urine).