It is interesting that you opened your review of the new Southern regional eatery Mint by mentioning three decidedly un-Southern dishes offered by competing restaurants. Mac and cheese and meatloaf are European concoctions of medieval origin. If you encounter a lake trout south of the Mason-Dixon Line, you can be sure that it's an interloper.
Those of us who have enjoyed Southern cuisine since childhood tend to intuitively recognize it for what it is: a rich fusion of African and western European traditions and techniques applied to locally available foodstuffs. It most definitely is not, as your comparison suggests, synonymous with what we have recently come to call comfort food.