Recently came across a review of a new blues club – restaurant – juke joint. Located in a well known southern city on the Gulf Coast; it seems as if the proprietors had one thing in mind but ended up doing something entirely different. A real shame as most all y’all know a “good” quality juke house, serving cold beers, and “real-deal” soul food is becoming harder and harder to find.
Well the food at *********, I’m sorry to say, was a HUGE disappointment. The restaurant and big beautiful bar are very impressive, but boy ,did they miss the point “food-wise” of this place.
Although they incorporate “juke joint”, and “southern soul food/comfort food” into everything they print, neither is anywhere near accurate. It appears from the menu, with items like Chicken and Waffles, Collard Greens (see Amy Ruth’s Harlem, NY), Fried Green Tomatoes (try The Blue Biscuit Indianola, MS), Fried Catfish (how ’bout Lady at the Levee Clarksdale or Cock of the Walk near Jackson, MS), and others, that indeed they are trying to make this appear to be southern soul food. From the glowing food reviews one sees in the newspaper and social media posts, it’s easy to tell that those writers have no idea what real soul food is about. There’s nothing like good southern soul food, and this is nothing like good southern soul food. Starting with our appetizer of fried green tomatoes, which is one of our favorites, it was apparent that this is a “she-she” attempt to make soul food glamourous and upscale. There in lies the problem. Three small slices of tomato, covered in delicately sliced rings of onion on a large rectangular plate, with an artful display of sauce drizzled around the small bland tomatoes is not what I expected. Are we at yet another of the numerous elegant restaurants here in town? These are fried green tomatoes for god’s sake. Totally wrong on this one, and at a hefty price to boot.
We still had high hope for the entries, the “specialty” chicken and waffles, and the three piece fried chicken dinner with collard greens (check Court Street Grill Pomeroy, OH). It was opening night and very crowded so we didn’t expect the service to be speedy, however after a 45 minute wait, even the staff took pity on us and brought us a complimentary dish of mac and cheese. Hungry as we were at the time, after a spoonful apiece we were done with that. A terrible disservice to a favorite and simple, tried and true side dish.
The fried chicken was good, with a nice crispy covering, which we both enjoyed, but the waffle, note this is singular, waffle not waffles, although tasty, left much to be desired portion wise. Either a larger waffle or at least two of these small saucer size treats should have been in order. The waffle was good, however no larger than one of the standard frozen toaster waffles, come on, southern soul food is not about minute size portions ala a fine French restaurant.
The collard greens were “maybe” one small step above what warm canned collard greens taste like. Anyone who likes and knows collard greens could not possibly find anything good or authentic in this dish. The fried chicken dinner came in the form of a two piece meal, a three piece meal, or a half a chicken. With the hefty prices of each, we calculated that a whole chicken dinner would probably cost around $46, that’s one high-class yard bird!
Straight across the board, everything was priced much too high, both for the quality and quantity of the portions. After talking with one of the owners, the pieces of this not to pretty puzzle starts to become a little clearer. Talks of $2,000 waffle presses, the highest grade “imported” sugar available used for the “authentic” Belgium waffles, a chef from another upscale foo-foo restaurant, etc., etc., say it all. Trying to make soul food chic does not work. We couldn’t help thinking later that night, as we thought of how disappointed we were, that if we went about three blocks away, to the “black” side of town, we could have found a real soul food cook on every block who could out do every dish we had just had.
This whole faux soul food cooking thing, kind of reminded me of the 50′s when Pat Boone and other white artists were making all the money re-recording the great R&B songs already done so greatly by black musicians.
The entertainment side of this new venture looks doubtful to me also. Disappointed as we were with the food aspects of this place, it appears that the entertainment side doesn’t look much brighter. The other co-owner, a retired executive from a yankee state, with interests in other chic chic restaurants in town, is in charge of the music and talent. His lineup of talent for the first couple of months leaves much to be desired. The original intent, I was led to believe, was to have mostly blues music, which would mesh well with the “southern soul food” theme. This apparently has given way to now presenting an eclectic range of music from folk to bluegrass, to blues and rock. Although I cannot afford to eat there very often, I’m hoping that they can a least present some good quality musical entertainment, and that at lease this will be a successful music venue.
As stated before in this here little blog ‘o ours. If you build it (right), they will come. They will come from miles away. Searching thru the dark of a West Virginia, Ohio or Mississippi night for great fried catfish, bbq, cheesy grits, chicken ‘n waffles, etc. And great blues, soul, southern soul, r&b, etc. But don’t try to re-invent the things that folks like. Hey, if it ain’t broke, then don’t try to fix it!