Comfort food can amplify the warmth of friends, and nobody does comfort food like the South. For a group night out with soulful bites, head to The Derby on the Lower East Side. This is modern Southern. The fried chicken is organic, the branzino is wild-caught, and summer’s kale salad is paired with fresh Georgia peaches. You’ll settle in at a wooden bench, custom designed for friends to gather around. Relax into the casually elegant atmosphere and feel the warmth of the marble and copper accents. The Derby’s cocktails speak with a Southern accent, and you’ll have your choice of juleps, bourbons, and a concoction of grapefruit juice and Fireball Cinnamon Whisky that’ll have you seeing who among you can stand up best to the heat. Next, it’s time to check out the menu, with regional references that run from the Low Country to the Lone Star State. This may be Southern food, but it’s not going to weigh you down such that the night’s next act is passing out in front of Dukes of Hazzard reruns. The offerings may inspire a sharing game plan, because you’ll be wanting a cut from the chicken-fried steak, updated here with a hand-cut rib eye topped with roasted wild mushrooms. Another worthy share is the house-made buttermilk biscuit, complete with smoked Virginia ham and maple-jalapeño butter. After dinner, with all the people-watching action on this prime LES corner, you may just linger for a while. Although if you did want to keep the night going with some risqué business, the vintage burlesque of the Slipper Room is conveniently located, just upstairs.