April 10, 2010

GSFiSCC: Bertha's Soul Food

What is the Great Southern Food in Southern California Challenge? Click here for the low-down. Want to see reviews of all stops on our tour? Click here. Wanna see any photo below, only larger? Well, just click on it!

Our sixth stop on the GSFiSCC was Bertha's Soul Food, 1714 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles, 90047.

Before I dive into the review of the awesome time we had at Bertha's, let me just say that we now have a contest going on. Until stop six, the clear frontrunner for winner of the GSFiSCC was Miss Peaches. There was no contest. And now there is.

Photo by Masasa.

Bertha's is the oldest soul food joint in Los Angeles, so says Rod, the proprietor. (Est. 1965.) When he learned about our challenge, he was intrigued and confident. Knew for a fact his website is the best (it is) and told us about how a golfing buddy offered to create it as a tribute to the food. That's awesome. Also awesome: Just this week, Bertha's Soul Food was selected to be the only soul food joint at LAX. Get ready, Delta terminal, you're in for some good in-flight, carry-on eatin'!

Photo by Masasa.

And something very reminiscent of home, here. Bertha's accepts food stamps. That's badass.

Photo by Masasa.

When you arrive at Bertha's, you're greeted by men sitting in rocking chairs on the side yard, inside the purple picket fence.

Photo by Keith.

When you walk inside, you're greeted by folks sitting on the benches waiting for takeout orders (or just hanging out and chatting). And you're acquainted with the rules.

Gotta love a place that shows zero tolerance for rudeness. I love it! And I love that you can order at the counter or take a seat in either of the dining room areas inside.

Keith and I arrived just after 5pm, way earlier than anyone else (but we knew there'd be a challenge with a 5pm start time. Still, we have some folks who can join us after work, others who have night classes... so we just try to pick a different start time and day of the week for each stop on the tour). We chose a large table in the second dining room, which had a perfect TV view for each of us. Keith could watch sports on the TV behind me and I could watch--you guessed it--the greatness that is The People's Court on the TV behind him. Bertha's gets bonus points all over the place, now!

André came over and introduced himself, gave us menus, and asked if we wanted to wait for the rest of our party to order. "Heck no," I said! "We're hungry. They're late. We're gonna eat!" He laughed and immediately asked if this was our first time at Bertha's, how we heard of 'em, and whether we needed recommendations on what to order.

Gotta say, the place smelled amazing from the parking lot. Keith said, "I'm having fried chicken," before he even saw the menu. And then he saw the menu. And ordered smothered pork chops (yes, two. That's what comes with the order. Amazing quantities, here. But more on that in a moment).

Joining me on the sixth stop of our GSFiSCC were David, Keith, Masasa, Ryan, and Shirley. This was Keith's first stop on the tour and David asked why I let him figure out where we would be. Soon, Ryan observed that Keith and David are basically the same guy. Yup.

Keith toured the men's room and came back saying, "The men's bathroom is the sweetest-smelling bathroom I've ever been in." And then he showed a photo that explained the why. Yeah. That's a lot of smell-goods for one tiny room.

Photo by Keith.

Dude. Enough with the set-up. Let's eat!

Sweetest cornbread muffins on the tour so far. Masasa refused to try 'em due to lack of real butter as an option for spread ("I don't do spread," she said), but hon', I gotta tell ya, there was nothing wrong with butter-like spread on these warm, sweet muffins. Gluten be damned!

Keith's smothered pork chops looked so good that when Ryan arrived, he ordered 'em too. And Masasa, who always dislikes "meat in sauce," said, "This, I approve of." It was that good. (It wasn't pork that lived in a bin of sauce, simmering all day. It was cooked to order. And delicious.)

I ordered fried catfish after being assured it was battered in cornmeal. Clearly, that ain't cornmeal. So, I gave most of it away and ate enough to know it's fantastic. Just not battered in a gluten-free way.

I also ordered collard greens and black-eyed peas. Every order comes with rice and gravy. That's not terribly southern, but oh my lordy was it delicious! "This rice and gravy is out of this world," is what I actually said. Shirley agreed, "This rice is so good." The greens were too sweet for me. Still good. Just sweet. And I like my greens bitter. The way god intended. Masasa called herself the "rogue on the greens," because she likes 'em sweet. "It might be the Canadian in me," she figures. When we launched into a discussion of hamhocks in greens, Ryan said, "That's the thing I don't want to know exists." "But it tastes like magic," I said. That is true.

The fried chicken was insane. This was a partial order. André brought out a bit of what Shirley ordered because the rest was still frying. "This is so way more chicken than I can eat," Shirley said. No worries. We helped her. And--holy cow--this fried chicken was good. The best we've had. Juicy, tasty, crispy, and oh so good! I cannot undersell this. The chicken was amazing.

Green beans, mac and cheese, and of course the rice and gravy. The green beans were salty. Masasa said, "I can roll around in salt, so if I say it's salty, that's saying something." Actually everything that was sweet was too sweet (except the iced tea--it was perfect, possibly the best sweet tea I've had on the tour) and the salty stuff was too salty, for most folks. David's corn was "sweet. Super, super sweet," he said. As for the above-pictured mac and cheese, I'm told that it didn't cut it. And that Chef Marilyn's mac and cheese is so good that Masasa has been back three times for it. Wow! Anyway, when Shirley said, "Everything's salty," Keith replied, "Everything's just right." He does love his salt.

Masasa models her collard greens, rice and gravy, and mac and cheese with red snapper. Now that is the fish I should've ordered. Cornmeal breaded and lightly fried. That is right. I had a bite of Masasa's fish. Yes. That's outstanding.

Yams were way too sweet. And cinnamony. "I think it's nutmeg," Shirley said. "Nutmeg always goes up in my nose." Ryan suggested maybe it had both spices. Either way, it was way too sweet to eat more than a little taste of, so we passed it around the table and each had a bite. Not bad for a buck-fifty side item. "It's like a pie filling," Shirley summed up.

David sampled inhaled the strawberry soda and quickly said, "I gotta have another one of those!" I loved that the menu mentioned the options of "strawberry, pink, and yellow lemonade." When André walked by with one of the strawberry lemonades for another customer, we all got a little excited. It's like a black and tan. But better.

André displayed a few dessert options for us, including sock-it-to-me cake, red velvet cake, sweet potato pie, and something called a yellow chocolate, which Keith ordered immediately--with milk--and then he loved it so much that he ordered a second one to take home.

And then there was a peach cobbler situation. After I took one, scrumptious bite, I asked, "Anyone want peach cobb--" "YES!" shouted Ryan, before I could even finish my question. "Inside voice, Ryan," I said, as I handed him the piping hot, delicious dessert. After a bite, he reported, "That is GOOD!" I offered some to Keith, who said, "Is it a pie made with fruit, baked? Then no." He doesn't like baked fruit. Okay. More for us! And when I offered some to David--who had arrived late, so his meal hadn't arrived yet--he said, "I cannot have dessert before my food comes." "Not a bite?" I asked. "I'm not that kind of person," he revealed. Again... more for us. :) Good news: André loved us so much, he gave us a freebie to go. David got it. "Yeeessssss!" was the sound of that win.

Now, let's get to the nitty-gritty. How does Bertha's Soul Food measure up, using the criteria I set out when issuing this Challenge?

Yes. A little on the sweet side, a little on the salty side, but yes. Good eatin'. The best chicken we've had. The best sweet tea I've had. Goooood food. Yes. "This is like all the foods that I want to feel good about myself," Ryan said.

Absolutely. No question. It was just like home in so many ways. The flavors were very sentimental ones. Ryan said the fixins were especially southern.

Everyone thought the price was right, except for Ryan, who always thinks it's high. We got a little generous on the tip because André was so awesome to split checks and comp a dessert. ($60 on $45, $25 on $16, etc.)

Absolutely! And the tablecloth is just like my grandmother's with the vinyl on one side and puffy cotton stuff on the other. We were treated like family and included in on the jokes. Staff sat at tables across from patrons and chatted about all sorts of things. It really was homey. When André saw me snapping a photo as he walked by, he joked, "Facebook!"

Without a doubt. It's good, through and through. Just a little over-seasoned in some cases.

Everyone who had eaten at Miss Peaches agreed that Miss Peaches is still in the lead... but barely (and one of the folks who ate at Miss Peaches actually said Bertha's might be better, but I'm not allowed to quote her because she doesn't want Connell coming after her for saying so). And everyone who hadn't had Miss Peaches said Bertha's was the best stop on the tour thus far.

We realized, once we get down to our final four, we should issue an Iron Chef-style challenge where the best contenders can vie--hopefully on a soundstage somewhere in Hollywood or at CBS Radford--for the title in front of a live studio audience. Let's hope we can work that out. 'til then, check back for a review of our seventh stop before the end of the month.

Posted by bonnie at 3:59 PM | Comments (2)

March 25, 2010

GSFiSCC: Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch

What is the Great Southern Food in Southern California Challenge? Click here for the low-down. Want to see reviews of all stops on our tour? Click here. Wanna see any photo below, only larger? Well, just click on it!

Our fifth stop on the GSFiSCC was Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch, 523 Washington Blvd., Marina Del Rey, 90292.

One of the major reasons we chose Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch for our fifth stop on the tour is that it offers Sunday brunch. I think it may be the only restaurant of those on our master list that does so. So. We had to check that out.

Oh, before I get into anything about Aunt Kizzy's, can anyone tell me what this thing is? There were two of them on Washington, just a hundred feet or so east of our destination, and there were all sorts of digging machines poised to put these huge things into the ground. What are these things and why do they go into the ground? Thank you in advance, to anyone who can tell me what this is all about. It concerned me so greatly that I did two laps before parking (also I was way early) so I could snap a few pics--all of which turned out "wavy" due to photographing while driving. Um. Oops. Did I just admit to that? Anyway...

I asked everyone to gather early, because I had heard that Aunt Kizzy's gets slammed after church (and that everyone would be in their Sunday best) and I didn't want to worry about how to get our big table, if people started showing up late (as people tend to do, sometimes). Turns out there was no major crush of customers (although things did pick up after 1pm), but Nyah--who greeted us and gave us a nice tour and history overview (including loads of details about Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s term of employment there) about Aunt Kizzy's--was very appreciative that we were so thoughtful as to arrive early.

We were given the option of inside or outside seating. It was a gorgeous day, so we chose the patio. When I began salivating over "sides" options, I was encouraged to get the sides platter (four sides for $9.95). Seeing as each side is $2.50 on its own, you can imagine how elated I was to save that nickel by ordering four sides, together. :\ That said, I have to say that I was very impressed when our waitress--Amber Rose, who is all about the high-five--offered Ryan a sample of the dressing and gravy, when he wasn't sure whether he wanted that with his order. "You wanna try some?" she asked. "Uh, yeah," was Ryan's response.

No question. Several of us would order the dressing and gravy (and then we'd launch into a conversation with the yankees among us about dressing vs. stuffing). No regrets. That was probably one of the best items on any plate! We also ordered a bit of fried okra "for the table" and it came out fast, hot, and--well--over-breaded for my liking. The majority ruled we'd all prefer a cornmeal and pepper dusting to the full-on breading offered with this okra. Bummer. I'm still jonesin' for fried okra done right.

Derek said, "Mason jars? Check!" when the drinks arrived. I had to cut my sweet tea with my water. It was just far too sweet. But I'm a wimp for sweet drinks. My beverages of choice are water and vodka. So, anything with sugar is going to need watering down, most likely. Of course, that sugar is a sweet, sweet (and seductive) thing, upon first sip. My immediate response, "Yes ma'am!" (Realizing as I write this that the Aunt Kizzy's website boasts beers, wines, and mimosas--the latter of which I was looking forward to having--but no alcoholic beverages were offered. Wondering now whether Mason was correct, when he mentioned that a good, southern place like this probably wouldn't offer booze on a Sunday. Hmm. No one asked, so I don't know for sure.) When Ryan saw on the menu, "All I want is chicken and a waffle," he said, "That's perfect. That's just how I'd order it too."

Amber was great about helping us order. She suggested best "shareable" items, saying, "Sharing is caring," when we'd debate as a group about particular options. While we waited for our food to arrive, we discussed whether Ryan should re-up with Compatible Partners, David's reconnaissance mission on diners for next year's tour, and what's uglier: Uggs or Crocs. Then Amber showed up with cornbread muffins fresh and hot. The talking ceased. Immediately. (Note Laura's very cool Feng Shui-friendly purse hook in the background. So flippin' badass. Must have.)

Oh! Before I forget, joining me for the fifth stop on the GSFiSCC were David, Derek, Kathi, Laura, Masasa, Ryan, Tanya, and Shirley.

David--who was a little late--mentioned having "a filtering problem" when it comes to bad theatre, which made me laugh like crazy. And Masasa--who arrived even latter--showed up in her church hat and explained the subtle difference between "CP Time" and "African Time," the latter of which is apparently worse by 30%. Shirley proclaimed that certain things are best when cooked in bacon grease. Everything is, we agreed. Further in this category, Masasa mentioned, "I could Paula Deen out on some butter." Yes. We do appreciate our food in this group!

Masasa was not happy that I neglected to wear my gloves. I should've mentioned to her back when we discussed Sunday brunch wardrobe that my "gloves" are actually Hello Kitty mittens. Not quite the same.

Photo by Masasa.

Okay, so let's eat!

I ordered grits, dressing and gravy, collard greens, and black-eyed peas. Not pictured: a biscuit. That biscuit was probably the best thing I ate, frankly. Or maybe I've been dreaming about it because it is so far off the "allowable gluten scale" I've created for myself on these tour stops. *sigh* It was really delicious. Really. Sadly, the grits were not. They were the worst I've ever had. I passed them down the table and no one would have more than a bite. Not authentically southern by any stretch and just absent of any flavor. But the dressing and gravy--as I hinted above--was a real treat. Greens and beans, fine. Nothing special. But plenty good.

Kathi had some mac and cheese, chicken, and bacon--and I had some of that bacon (a bit of Kathi's and a bit of Derek's, in fact). Holy crap, that was good. Really really good. And Kathi's review on her mac and cheese (which I did not sample) was, "Oh, man..." which sounded pretty positive to me! And to Derek. And to anyone else at our end of the table. Kathi seemed to really like that mac and cheese!

Ryan went for the scrambled eggs, mac and cheese, dressing and gravy, and bacon. Awesome! Tanya had the chicken and waffle, after which she said, "I feel a little pregnant with food."

Laura chose chicken, mac and cheese, a BBQ rib, and black-eyed peas. I sampled a bit of that rib, and it was tender and delicious. Laura said the sauce was really good, and she knows her sauce! Shirley shared some of her chicken with me, which was on the dry side, but still tasty. Certainly nowhere near Roscoe's-level chicken. Just sayin'.

When Masasa's smothered pork arrived, she was none too pleased. (See last stop on the tour for her candid thoughts on "meat in sauce.") She tried to get me to take it home to my cats, but Derek decided he'd sample it. After two bites, he was done too. No one liked this, it seems. Uh-oh. As for Masasa's thoughts on the mac and cheese--remember, she had lots to say about this dish at our last stop--she will be going back to Chef Marilyn's for mac and cheese. Back to Aunt Kizzy's? "I wouldn't drive out here again," she said.

So, how's it looking like Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch measures up, using the criteria I set out when issuing this Challenge.

Pretty good. Yes.

Eh. Ryan mentioned everything was pretty low in sodium, and I don't disagree with that. All who sampled the chicken mentioned it was a little dry but the breading was pretty good. Biscuits, cornbread muffins, waffles, mac and cheese, dressing and gravy, and most of the other sides were good. Grits were inedible, as was the smothered pork.

Kathi summed it up, saying, "seems a little high." And yeah, based on portion size and prices we've seen elsewhere, this was a little on the high side for the amount of food that showed up. That said, it's still a pretty reasonably-priced brunch option, for Los Angeles.

For sure. Nyah and Amber Rose made us feel at home from the instant we arrived. Tales of their 25 years in business, the wall of fame (over 1000 photos of famous people, only 300 on display at this location), the now-famous folks who worked there in the past, and paparazzi stalking celebs when they come here to "get their southern grub on" (a line that once ran on TMZ, apparently) were woven into lots of laughs and comments that you'd only let your family get away with making. Instantly casual and intimate, here. That's southern, for sure.

Worth a visit, yes. A good option if you're on the westside and don't want to truck it out to Miss Peaches or do takeout from Chef Marilyn's for something more delicious.

Connell can rest easy, as after five stops, Miss Peaches is still in the lead for service, atmosphere, food, and best overall experience. South is still the best (um, only) party-style option we've visited. Check back for a review of our sixth stop, coming in early April! Thanks, y'all!

Posted by bonnie at 2:05 AM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2010

GSFiSCC: Chef Marilyn's Soul Food Express

What is the Great Southern Food in Southern California Challenge? Click here for the low-down. Want to see reviews of all stops on our tour? Click here. Wanna see any photo below, only larger? Well, click it, for heck's sake!

Our fourth stop on the GSFiSCC was Chef Marilyn's Soul Food Express, 5068 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 90019.

Technically, Chef Marilyn's was supposed to be the third stop on the tour, but when we arrived at the restaurant for our dinner Tuesday night, we learned that Chef Marilyn's is NOT a restaurant.

Photo by Masasa.

Nope. It's a takeout joint.

Photo by Masasa.

Now, maybe I should've picked that up by "Express" in the name of the joint, but seriously, shouldn't "takeout only" be mentioned somewhere on the flippin' website? Crazy! I combed all through that site and saw no way I could've figured out we'd be entering an establishment with no chairs or tables. I just thought "Express" meant fast. Ah... lesson learned.

Photo by Masasa.

So, because of our discovery upon arrival--and not wanting to lose out on a tour stop--we wandered down Pico to Roscoe's, which became tour stop number three (see previous entry). And, not wanting to give up on Chef Marilyn--especially because that food looked and smelled so good--we each bought a little takeout and did our critiques of the cuisine from home via email the next day.

Joining me for the fourth stop on the GSFiSCC were Eric, Masasa, Ryan, and Susyn. We were all excited about our little styrofoam containers of southern cookin' and probably could've stood right there and eaten, if we had to. Luckily, the food travels and reheats well. :)

Here's Susyn's review of Chef Marilyn's food:

chicken legs: falling off the bone good
meatloaf: great
collard greens: yum, with a kick stronger than Roscoe's
yams: scrumptious
mac and cheese: yum
corned beef and cabbage: really good, with a nice kick

You may recall that I mentioned in the last post that Susyn told us about something called "chicken bog." Here's the scoop on that! "The official description is it's a conglomeration of rice, spices, and chicken, topped with bacon. It is a South Carolina delicacy cooked in a pot, which gives it that boggy, soggy name." Sounds awesome! Maybe our tour needs to include a good ol' fashioned home cookin' stop!

(Ooh, how I wish I had been hungry enough to order some fish. It looked sooo good.)

Photo by Eric.

Here's Eric's review of Chef Marilyn's food:

Out of the microwave ('cept the banana pudding) at 12:36.
35 minutes later. Damn, that's gooooooooooooood mac and cheese! ♥
Oh, I probably would have finished off the chicken bones too, but i did need to make room for the banana pudding. :)
Photo by Eric.

Hee! That did look good. Eric was so pleased to be able to get his CRISPY mac and cheese. He even asked for extra crispy edges and they scooped out more for him!

More, please!

Photo by Masasa.

Here's Masasa's review of Chef Marilyn's food:

I stand by my aversion to meat floating in juice, and my hot link experience did not sway me from that philosophy. As for the sides, I say "PLEASE, Chef Marilyn, can I have some more?" I got a plate of greens, yams, cabbage, and mac and cheese. Back in the day, Scoe's used to have my most favourite mac and cheese ever, but sadly in recent years, I have found theirs to be lacking in the cheese department. There's nothing worse than a "cheese tease," I always say, so I actually stopped ordering it from Scoe's all together. Having said that, Chef Marilyn has MASTERED the art of mac and cheese! And from now on, should I happen to have a craving, I know just where to go.
Photo by Masasa. (Her review continues, below.)
After having paid proper homage to the cheesy carbs, I moved on to the veggies, and I was not disappointed in the least. Each one was perfectly seasoned and had just the right amount of love. Although I prefer my cabbage to be a little more al dente, the seasoning and other veggies mixed in made up for that. I finished my feast with the candied yams and they were like a yummy little dessert, they were so good!

As for me, I ordered collard greens, black-eyed peas, and mashed potatoes. $4.50. And the helpings were huge. Seriously, two days of leftovers, here!

The collard greens were peppery and delicious. Black-eyed peas were exactly like Momma used to make, and I didn't think I would ever be able to say that about anybody's beans! They were awesome! The potatoes were fine. Nothing terribly special. Still, good eatin'.

Let's see how Chef Marilyn's measures up, in the criteria I set out when issuing this Challenge.

Absolutely. Super yummy!

For sure. No question about it, this is true southern food.

Absolutely! There's a whole section of 99-cent specials and it's a ton of food you're getting. Holy crap, what a great deal!

Well, no, because there is no table. But you're welcomed and joked around with and encouraged to call in orders for free delivery. (I asked, "How far will you deliver?" "Anywhere, if you order enough," was the reply.)

Sure thing! Just be sure you have a next destination, as you will not be able to eat your food here. I imagine a catering situation would be pretty wonderful.

I actually stopped at Miss Peaches for a piece of butter cake last night and, yep, they're still in the lead for service, atmosphere, food, and best overall experience. And, yes, I told Connell that was the case. He wasn't surprised. In fact, he has invited us back for a Sunday book signing and "high-end food" event (coming soon). Everyone who is currently on the southern food mailing list (via Facebook) will be invited. Food will be free, but you'll have to buy a copy of Connell's brother's book. ;) Be ready! The items he's talking about fixing sound outrageously good.

Posted by bonnie at 3:02 PM | Comments (1)

March 10, 2010

GSFiSCC: Roscoe's

What is the Great Southern Food in Southern California Challenge? Click here for the low-down. Want to see reviews of all stops on our tour? Click here. Wanna see any photo below, only larger? Well, click it, for heck's sake!

Our third stop on the GSFiSCC was supposed to be Chef Marilyn's Soul Food Express (see next entry for why it was, instead, our fourth stop on the tour. Yes. Two stops in one night, technically). Instead, our third stop on the GSFiSCC was Roscoe's, 5006 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 90019.

Now, Roscoe's is a Southern California institution, but I've never been sure why folks consider this place "southern," as there has never been a waffle served with chicken at any southern dinner I ever had. But it's a place that got mentioned several times when I first posted about seeking out some good, authentic, southern eats back on 1/1/10. It's also the place my first LA boss took me in 1993, when he promised my mother he'd be sure I ate good, southern food. I reported back to my mother that he was no judge of such things and not to be trusted.

Still, due to the technical difficulties that will be revealed in the next post, we ended up at Roscoe's for the third stop on our tour. Waffles and all.

As Eric said, if we had excluded Roscoe's, we'd have been asked about that choice, so it's fine that we ended up there. Heck, the food was very good, so let's say it was more than fine that we ended up there!

Now, there are a lot of rules at Roscoe's. I didn't even get to the credit card signs or the solicitation signs (yet, strangely, there were two very eager and friendly women roaming the restaurant offering tours, free drinks, and coupons of indeterminate value for a karaoke sports bar for the "luxury car set" -- Is that right, Ryan? -- across the street). But there are rules to visiting Roscoe's. Yes, one in our party was still bold enough to ask to make a substitution. No. No substitutions. Read the sign.

We passed the case of merch and went to table one, after making the staff aware that we'd likely have one or two joining us after they learned we were not down the street at Chef Marilyn's Soul Food Express. No worries, we were assured. A chair could pull up to our table with no issue. Cool. (That did turn out to be true, BTW.)

Now, I usually check out a menu before I visit a restaurant for the first time. That's mainly due to issues with wheat gluten, but also because I'm one of those annoying diners who needs to read the whole menu to decide what I want, rather than just magically spotting something hopping up and down at me from the page, begging to be ordered and eaten. Still, the menu at Roscoe's is not too long, so we were able to figure out what we wanted (yes, even me) by the time our drinks arrived. And I, for one, was hongray.

As for atmosphere, the signs are about it. (This one exists at every table.) Well, there's also art. There are flat-screen TVs (all turned off, from what I could tell). And while we strained to hear if there were any music playing, I still think--if we heard anything--it was someone's iPod. Eric says the Long Beach Roscoe's is the homey-est and this one is more like a diner. Ryan mentioned expansion at the Gower St. location (the only one I have visited, although that was nearly 20 years ago), which should mean it's a bit roomier than I recall.

Joining me for the third stop on the GSFiSCC were David, Eric, Ryan, Susyn and technically Masasa (more on that in the next post, I promise). Our time together included talk of (and quotes from) Bring It On, discussion of Light My Fire (a booth at the Grove specializing in hot sauce), and a domain check on BackYardPorn.com, which David will now not be able to snap up, as it's already taken (.org, however, is available, which Susyn says is a great option, since that could stand for "orgasm"). We also verified that the "Carolinian" in North Carolinian and South Carolinian are pronounced differently (the LIN in the latter is said with an EE sound) and Susyn told us about something called chicken bog, which I'll also cover in the next entry.

So... let's eat! My goal was to order the most traditionally southern meal available. I decided that was the #23, for $13.40 plus tax.

Collard greens (which I've decided I'm ordering at every stop on the tour, as that will be the great equalizer, when tabulating the votes at the end of this journey), candied yams (called "candy yams" on the menu, and, um, that's probably more appropriate, because I swear they tasted like dessert), a fried breast of chicken the size of my head, and cornbread served with a pat of butter (where "pat" is code for "tablespoon of fluffy goodness"). Yum! Good decision-making on the ordering, there, Bon.

Traditional Roscoe's fare: chicken'n waffles, add a side of mac and cheese. All three gents ordered exactly this, but Eric did request the most "baked brown" mac and cheese possible. No-go. This was as dark-brown as it got. Well, 'til David added hot sauce and pepper to his. That was pretty badass, actually. (Note: David refused a Birthday Biscuit Bottom when I offered it, once he realized it was the uneaten part of a biscuit with a fake candle mounted upon it. Pff. That's gratitude for ya!)

[NOTE: I'm going to leave this next bit in, even though I've since been corrected and will set the record straight after this little story. But the story is funny and well-written, so in it stays, just for fun.]

Now, I'm not sure whether my momma tried to save me from the harsh realities of what chitlins actually are, but my whole life I was led to believe that they were chicken necks. So, tonight I decided to finally try one when Susyn offered, thinking that it couldn't be that bad. And it wasn't. Tasted like deep-fried beef jerky. Fine. And then I came home and started to post this blog entry, which involved looking up chitlins (well, chitterlings), to be sure I was spelling everything right and, uh...

I ate pig intestines. Awesome. No regrets. But, I think I'm done with eating chitlins in my lifetime. Maybe. We'll see. Maybe I just need to let it all sink in.

[Okay, so those aren't chitlins at all. They're chicken giblets! As Susyn informed me just now over at the Facebook, "While I have eclectic food tastes, I don't think even I would eat chitlins! Giblets--I was always told--are the stomachs, hence the tough, chewy taste. After doing some research this morning, the official word is that giblets can be the heart, liver, and gizzard (secondary stomach). But, what I had was clearly the gizzard. And yummy it was! :) There you have it!" So, thank you Susyn for setting me straight! I ate chicken innards, not pig innards. Hee!]

Here are the chitlins chicken giblets with the rest of Susyn's dish: a biscuit, eggs, grits, and collard greens. Everybody shared everything (I sampled everything but biscuits, eggs, and waffles, I think) and everyone agreed that everything was tasty and plentiful. I actually said to Ryan, "Oh my god, I think this is the first time in a year of eating together that your plate got cleared before mine did." (He's a notoriously slow eater and likes to keep his food around even if he's not going to finish it, just in case.) His response, as I continued to pick at my food long after I was full: "I couldn't stop!"

We sat for a bit and talked and laughed while enjoying the wet-naps the waitress brought us and each other's company, then it was time to head out. Eric offered me a plastic bag as a souvenir, to which I replied, "No thank you; I'm de-cluttering." (Thank you, David, for capturing that, plus for telling us all about the Dragon Dictation app, which I must remember to download, seeing as I now recall you're the second cute boy to tell me about it in 2010 [I'm lookin' at you, Bill the DILF].)

As we left the restaurant and headed back west on Pico on foot toward our cars (still parked at Chef Marilyn's), we were greeted by the smell of a lovely incense burning in the bushes just under a Roscoe's window (let's just say something else was burning off the back of the parking lot, probably justifying the very large portion sizes provided at Roscoe's) and then spotted the sign offering us information about the scent. There was a table, but no one manning it. Perhaps we were too late to buy any incense. Oh well, we weren't too late to get back to Chef Marilyn's and experience our fourth stop on the GSFiSCC tour. But more on that, next post.

Meanwhile, let's see how Roscoe's measures up, in the criteria I set out when issuing this Challenge.

Yup. If you like lots of food, come on by. Several locations to serve you. The chicken is almost "broasted" (roasted in a pressure cooker, according to Eric), but the waitress assured us it was deep fried in oil, and the reason it tasted so moist and flavorful was "a secret."

What is on their menu that is southern is certainly authentic enough. The collard greens had a kick. The grits were buttery. I didn't try the sweet iced tea -- Did they offer any? -- but I think I got more than enough sugar for the day in my yams.

Looking at the menu, I thought the prices were high ($13.40 for one chicken breast and two sides, plus cornbread, for me), but when the food came it became clear that there was way more food on the plate--scratch that, it was a platter--than I had anticipated. Five were fed for around $87, plus tip. Not bad at all!

We decided no, mainly because your grandma would allow substitutions (says Susyn) and offer water without you having to request it. She wouldn't share the secret to the fried chicken flavor either, but she'd tell a joke or two to take the sting out of that.

Hmm... well, I can't find where Roscoe's says they serve southern food. I think folks around here just made that up and decided to tell their southern friends that there's good southern eatin' there. So, since Roscoe's doesn't seem to want to be southern and is really just offering good, down-home soul food (which, naturally, happens to include a good number of authentic southern options), I'll say, sure! You can get your southern grub on here just fine.

Miss Peaches is still in the lead for service, atmosphere, food, and best overall experience. South is our only alcohol-serving contender at this point, but that'll change at stop five, later this month. All three stops have involved loads of fun and lots of laughs, plentiful food, and good times. And isn't that what southern eatin' is all about?

Posted by bonnie at 1:21 AM | Comments (3)

February 16, 2010

GSFiSCC: South

What is the Great Southern Food in Southern California Challenge? Click here for the low-down. (And click on any photo below to enlarge it.)

Our second stop on the GSFiSCC was South, 3001 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 90403.

South is the creation of four young guys who clearly enjoyed the frat hangouts of their college days (and beyond). A couple of 'em did time in the south, and that's what they've focused their menu upon. It covers a few states' favorites, rather than trying to stick to one specific southern cuisine, but really, South is a sportsbar, first and foremost. The fact that you can get a good southern dinner there is a bonus.

I arrived promptly at 4pm (their happy hour runs weekdays from 3pm to 8pm. Awesome, right?) and told the manager that we would be a party of... well... it was hard to know, as RSVPs were flipping back from YES to NO all through the day. I also told him we may have drop-ins over the next few hours. So, it could be me alone for an hour and then maybe a dozen folks by the time we were all assembled. But nothing formal. Nothing official.

The manager awesomely offered me the private room. Three flat-screen TVs mounted there, plus a very cool--huge--leather sofa, and two little coffee tables. Problem was, we were looking to eat meals, so I figured having a real table situation would be best. Otherwise, that's a badass room. So noted. Anyway, the manager happily put together a couple of tables and brought over a few extra chairs and our guests began arriving (and kept arriving through 9pm, when we called it a night).

Now, this was the "deadest" I've ever seen South. I've been there quite a few times and it's always loud and full and overflowing with high-spirited whoops and hollers at the various games on TV (or games of flip-cup and beer pong and team trivia going on). But I guess with this being a holiday (Presidents Day) and starting a little on the early side, we got the place to ourselves for a good part of the evening. The manager encouraged us to join him tonight (Fat Tuesday) for alligator meat and loads of fun. He was decorating the space with Mardi Gras colors and props. Looked like it'd be a blast.

Joining me for the second stop on the GSFiSCC were Cristina, Curt, David B., David M., Julie, Kathi, Masasa, Mason, Matthew, Mike, Ryan, and Shirley. Biggest difference between South and Miss Peaches (our first stop on the tour) is the presence of booze. Plenty of it.

Plenty of it.

But let's get to the food, since that's what this whole thing is about.

This was my order: creamed corn, collard greens, and jalapeño cornbread. The greens were amazing. I gave away 2/3 of my corn and 1/2 of my cornbread (but to be fair, these were really large portions, and I ordered a sharing plate of fried stuff, so I was plenty full). Everything was delicious and of very generous portion size.

The "plate o' fried" that I ordered. Okra, fried green tomatoes, and hush puppies. Dang, that was some good stuff. Glad folks shared this platter of gluten overload. (Well, the okra and fried green tomatoes--like the fried shrimp in Marc's shrimp po' boy--were breaded in corn meal, but still. I got more than my share of wheat gluten, for sure.)

That's Marc's fried shrimp po' boy with sweet potato fries. Um, yum.

Ryan's pulled-pork sandwich. (He said the bun was not good, so he ate it open-face. Quote: "I don't eat bad buns.") Note: When we had a conversation about vegetarianism, Marc was quick to quote his dad, saying, "Once the pig is in you, it's in you for life." Yeah, baby. That's good stuff.

I, of course, am a huge fan of the pulled-pork nachos at South. (This photo is from a visit last year, with fellow southerner Camille.) Since I get these every time I'm here, I opted out, but at least four people at our table did go for these, and they were not disappointed. "Thumbs up to the pulled-pork nachos," Mason said. Honestly, I think what makes me love 'em so much is that they're made with baked beans, not refried or black beans. Holy cats, that's good stuff!

As awesome as the food was, we also just had a good time. Lots of laughs, just like at our first stop on the tour, although this time we were the entertainment, rather than the restaurant staff providing the giggles (they, at best, were impolite--except for the very accommodating manager who greeted me upon arrival. One of the toughest elements was that there were several changes in servers in the five hours we were there. That's not unexpected, but it caused some mistaken charges on the night's bill, and inconsistency of experience).

Still, that was minor stuff. We had fun, dangit. And some folks even played a few games of pool...

...and posed in mirrored sunglasses. It's like they planned this or something! (Photo by Masasa Moyo.)

Masasa said, about her cheese grits, which she enjoyed along with collard greens and red beans and rice (and hot sauce, of course), "Best cheese grits I've ever had." Awesome!

Kathi got wings. And so many of 'em! Seriously, the portions at South are plentiful, y'all!

And the napkins were plentiful too. (Thank goodness!)

We really had a good time, despite ambiance that wasn't awesome, according to some. "It's a zero or negative five," Ryan said. "I feel like I'm stuck in an airport waiting for my next flight," Masasa contributed. Definitely we craved knickknacks on the walls and more southern music, and the fact that some glasses were glass while others were plastic was weirdly annoying, but, hey, in the end, this is a sportsbar. It's about what you'd expect in that respect.

Sadly, no one ordered dessert. No deep fried Twinkies. No deep fried Snickers. So, I can't even tell you what those things look like. I kind of want to see 'em! So, we'll go back. Also, no one ordered fried pickles, so I can't tell you about those either. What I can tell you is that eight items on the menu are half off during the five-hour-long weekday happy hour. And drinks are cheap then too. Very not bad!

So, let's see how South measures up, in the criteria I set out when issuing this Challenge.

Definitely. Just like with Miss Peaches, it's good, it's plentiful, it's delish!

Pretty much. I got my fried okra and fried green tomatoes (which I was missing at Miss Peaches), and if you're into New Orleans' southern food, they've got you covered. Into Texas' southern food, roger that. Into Georgia's southern food, that one's good too. I think they've done a good job offering a little bit of everything you might want, at least that seemed to be the case at our table.

Definitely. Especially during happy hour. Of course, I had told the manager that we'd settle up our check all together, but during the several change-overs of personnel while we were there (and because members of our party were arriving and leaving all throughout the five hours I was there), checks were separated out, so I don't have any clue what our overall bill was. Anyway, my three sides were $15 (and way too much to eat), plus the three fried sides were $13 (ditto). Drinks were five bucks each, due to happy hour. All good.

Only if your grandma is Bear Bryant.

For sure! But be prepared: It is a sportsbar. If you're coming for dinner, just know there are many different sporting events on many different TVs, the music is blasting, and as the crowd thickens up the people get loud too. It's just that kind of place! So, for what it is, absolutely, it's a fun stop on the tour.

Since we've now made multiple stops on the GSFiSCC tour, I'm adding one more question to the mix:

Miss Peaches beats South, hands down, for service. Kitschy atmosphere at Miss Peaches beats the college-town frat bar feel of South, for my taste, but that's just a difference in style, and you really wouldn't choose South if you were in a Miss Peaches mood (or vice-versa). Both restaurants rate as tops, as far as food as concerned, and that's really the bottom line. Go to Miss Peaches for supper at grandma's. Go to South to snack, drink, and watch the game with the Pi Kappa Alphas.

Posted by bonnie at 6:31 PM | Comments (2)

January 29, 2010

GSFiSCC: Miss Peaches

What is the Great Southern Food in Southern California Challenge? Click here for the low-down. (And click on any photo below to enlarge it.)

Our first stop on the GSFiSCC was Miss Peaches, 5643 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hollywood, CA 91601.

Miss Peaches' grandson, Connell Moss, hails from Chesapeake Bay, VA, and learned how to cook from his momma's side of the family, while learning how to adapt recipes from his daddy's side of the family (although, his granddaddy took his BBQ sauce recipe to the grave, as his daddy says he'll be doing). So, while he admits his recipes aren't exactly the same as those his ancestors may have whipped up, he boasts a kitchen-eatin' experience just like his grandma used to do.

He's also adapted recipes to make 'em healthier. Yep. No meat in any of the side dishes. I cannot imagine how he got his greens to taste so good without a hamhock, but man, they're good.

Lemme back up.

We arrived right about 7pm to the kitchen-sized restaurant (let me clarify: It's a kitchen-like dining room. Tables are pulled around to accommodate how ever many folks happen to show up. There's a counter. A kitchen sink. Dishes drying in a rack. Knickknacks. And then the restaurant's actual kitchen is twice the size of the eating space. Turns out this used to be a Domino's Pizza. Then, it was a Miss Peaches for takeout only. But people stood around in the "waiting for your order" area and ate their fried chicken standing there. So, since his brother's restaurant--Angelena's, named after Connell's other grandmother--is a sit-down place, folks started coming in and expecting to sit there. "So, we put this table here," Connell said, gesturing to a two-top, and that's how it all began).

Joining me for the first stop on the GSFiSCC were Derek, Eric, Kathi, Marie, Ryan, Shirley, Tanya (and, briefly, Phoebe, whose visit was fodder for great comedic moments with Connell--who really could be a stand-up comedian--since Phoebe appreciated that the veggies were made without meat, but dared to ask Connell about the butter content--seeing as she's a vegan and all. Connell's response was a look that would chill your bones and make you laugh out loud at once). In fact, Phoebe and Tanya arrived a bit after we had placed our order. Connell asked, "Is you with them?"

They nodded, cheerily.

"Y'all's late!" he responded.

Okay, so before we ordered, Connell asked if any of us had been there before. Nope. So, he gave us a little overview. The first most popular dish is the fried chicken, closely followed by the fried catfish. "After that, you're on your own. It's all good, but it's up to you. We do serve Kool-Aid. Tonight, if you want to know what flavor it is, it's red."

I don't think we stopped laughing at all during our visit... except for when we were eating. But I'll get to that.

I had decided on the hot links, as my gluten-free guru Anna told me that would be the safest item on the menu for my gluten-free eating needs. But then I decided to ask Connell about the catfish. "How is your catfish battered?" I asked.

"Darlin', where you from?" was Connell's response.

"Atlanta," I said.

"Well you know I'm from Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, and we do it just like you do it: with corn meal."


That meant catfish for me! Along with black-eyed peas, string beans, and even some mashed potatoes.

"I like this woman," Connell told the table, after I ordered. Sweet iced-tea, of course, which I usually don't love, but how can you not get tea like your momma used to make when you're at a place like this?

When Ryan ordered unsweetened iced-tea, Connell took a step back and said, "We don't have unsweet tea." That's right. No booze (the wine on the "kitchen counter" is a knickknack), no unsweet tea, and no Coca-Cola products (which I find a bit offensive, but I'll overlook it). Of course, there was the Kool-aid, which Eric ordered. "I'm a 56-year-old man drinking Kool-aid," he marveled. They also had milk, which Derek ordered. From then on, he was known as "the milkman," according to Connell. We suspect he'll remember him by that name when Derek goes back (which he says he will). But, again, I'm getting ahead of myself.

After we ordered, Marie took a visit to the restroom, which has a keyboard and drumkit next to it. We'd learn why later. When she returned, she reported that the restroom had a "Tallahassee truckstop quality, with an obligatory touch of Hollywood: a poster from Stargate-1." Awesome.

Drinks started coming around. In mason jars. Of course. The tablecloths were exactly like my grandmother's (not in pattern, but in that they were plastic on one side, puffy cotton-like stuff on the other side). We ended up having a conversation with Connell about my grandmother keeping her newspaper articles and BINGO cards under that tablecloth (it was her vault; BINGO daubers lived in the windowsill) and it turns out his grandmother didn't have a gambling vice, but he sure thought she could've used it. "Because her vice was WWF. She thought it was real!" Connell told us all about her cheering and squealing and believing in it all. "BINGO would've been better," he said.

When the food started coming, no one waited for anyone else's food to get there. Just like no one did formal introductions upon arrival. I s'pose I could've been a good host and taken care of introductions, but it just felt so much like my grandmother's house that I went into another, safe, childhood world. And everyone just introduced themselves to one another. People shared food with one another. There was no more Hollywood. Only Miss Peaches' dinner table.

Considering we slammed the kitchen by putting in eight orders at once--and we weren't ordering light--they did great. Food was up quickly and what was forgotten was brought around to us also quickly, once recognized as forgotten (an extra side, a refill, more butter, extra napkins). If you wonder how eight people can slam a kitchen at 7pm on a Thursday, let me assure you, the entire restaurant seats no more than 15. A table of four was there when we arrived, and more people arrived after we did. Some stayed, some ordered takeout, some stood outside peering in, trying to figure out if there'd be room for them soon. There are additional tables outside, but no heatlamps, so that'd be for daytime use. Connell and Guillermo manned the kitchen. They sent their third guy home at 5pm, because it looked like it'd be a slow night.

Anyway, the food was awesome. Seriously. Things got quiet while we devoured our yummy goods off mismatched plates. "Mmm" and "ooh" and "aah" -- those were the only sounds. And they were good sounds. The first full sentence I heard came from Tanya: "I'm devouring this like I've never eaten before." Yeah. She wasn't the only one. I think I inhaled my string beans. Shared my black-eyed peas. Shared my potatoes. Shared a little catfish but brought half of it home for tomorrow. It was all sooo good. "I'll come back for the baked beans alone," Derek said. Since both Derek and Tanya live very close to Miss Peaches, I suspect they'll be back soon and often. I think I will be too!

When another table of guests finished up and settled their bill, Connell looked at their plates and said, "Y'all ate pretty good!" And then he said to us, "Everybody happy over here? Eat slow. Save room for dessert." I think our table ended up ordering two items, which I didn't sample, figuring there was no way they could be gluten-free (and I really was too full--and taking leftovers home--to have anything else). We asked about the sock-it-to-me cake and were quickly steered toward the gooey butter cake. Well... "steered toward" like a drug dealer offers up a sample before earning a customer for life.

"I'll warn you. It's crack. Don't call me in the middle of the night trying to get it," Connell cautioned.

So, that, plus some piping hot peach cobbler came to the table and got passed around. Tanya's first bite of the butter cake yielded the following, "That is STUPID!"

Raucous laughter poured through the restaurant at that point. And Connell and Tanya may be engaged. It was adorable. Turns out the butter cake recipe was adapted from a piece Connell had while in Savannah, Georgia, years ago. He wasn't sure anyone else would appreciate it, because it's lighter and fluffier than a cheesecake, but tastes like sweet butter.

Um, yeah. Sweet butter? Not a problem.

I finally did stick my finger into a bit of the smush left on the plate by the end of its third lap around the table. Reminded me of the Gillespie household classic: Karo Syrup drizzled on butter, whipped into a creamy dip for hot biscuits. Yeah. That is stupid good food.

So, let's see how Miss Peaches measures up, in the criteria I set out when issuing this Challenge.

Um, yeah. It's good, it's plentiful, it's delish!

Absolutely. I would've loved some fried okra and I think someone else mentioned fried green tomatoes, but even so, there was plenty of yumminess to choose from, and it all represented the food of my childhood very, very well.

Eight people ate dinner, had a few extra sides, had drinks with refills, and shared two desserts for just over $150 ($190 with tip). Marie way overpaid, so I'll make sure to keep her from doing that next time. Everyone brought small bills for check-splitting, which was very much appreciated. No one had a problem with the decision to overtip. The experience was so worth it. We really did get "dinner and a show." Fun fact: Connell is a musician. He used to write songs for Burt Bacharach!

Without a doubt. The whole place--with the exception of the music playing--was 100% authentically southern in vibe and style. But the music was still good! (Connell even replayed an Otis Redding song at a louder volume when he realized some of the patrons were really enjoying the tune, halfway through it.) Just not like home. Still, that's a tiny thing. Everything else was right on point.

Oh, yes. Definitely. But come hungry! The portions are huge! There's plenty of street parking at Miss Peaches, but the place is small. Connell will admonish you for not calling before you came over to his house for dinner, but that's his "thing." It's very cute. You don't actually need reservations. They're closed on Sundays and on any day it's raining too hard, as the drainage on Lankershim Blvd. is so bad that you can't get from the curb into the restaurant. That means Miss Peaches was closed most of last week! Luckily, Connell gets a lot of catering gigs from TV series and film production going on in the area, and that keeps him afloat when he can't operate the restaurant for customers.

I have to tell you, if I showed up on a set and Miss Peaches was craft services, I don't know that I would get much work done. I'd have to eat all day instead.

Absolutely, this place gets my highest recommendation. Yeah, yeah, yeah it's the first stop on the tour, so there's nothing else in the running for first place, but when we told Connell what it was we were doing, coming into his place and experiencing it so fully, he listened to the list of other places we'd be trying out this year and nodded along with each one, then said, "You go to all of those, then you come back to Miss Peaches and tell me who's best."

He knows he's got that one in the bag. I have to say, the bar is set pretty dang high. Authentically southern, plentiful, delicious, affordable, and entertaining. Doesn't get much better than that!

Posted by bonnie at 12:39 AM | Comments (6)

January 2, 2010

The Great 2010 Southern Food in Southern California Challenge

It started simply enough.

I posted a status update from my iPhone, as my champagne-sleepy head began to wind down in the wee hours of January 1st.

Bonnie Gillespie wants to know: Where can a good southern gal show up for black-eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread within the next 22.5 hours? Gotta get my ritual on!

(Now, of course, after receiving a few comments, it became clear that I really *meant* to say "cabbage," not "collard greens," as THAT is what this southern gal's momma made every year, but that's neither here nor there.)

Comments came flooding in. Suggestions of places to score a true southern meal in Los Angeles, comments that there just isn't any true southern eating in Los Angeles, invitations to home-cooked New Year's Day meals from friends and strangers alike... gawd I loves me the Facebook.


I started poking around. Poking hard. Poking a LOT.

And I found a good bunch of options within minutes--or hours--from home.

And I decided it's not enough to just go find a good place for a good meal. I'm gonna have to turn this into a "thing." So, here's one of my 2010 "things" (another being that I'm participating in a Snapshot a Day group at Flickr--YES! I finally joined the Flickr. I know! Hello, 2005--as well as the usual 12 of 12 monthly photo essay), and I'd like to invite y'all to join in.

I'm gonna check out some of these places.

At least one per month.

And I'm gonna take photos and blog at the Spynotebook about the eats, asking questions like:

  1. Is the eatin' good?
  2. Is the eatin' authentically southern?
  3. Is the price right?
  4. Does the staff make you feel like you're sittin' at your grandma's table?
  5. Is the place worth visiting, if you grew up on the type of food they say they make?

And I'm inviting those of y'all who'd like to sample these goodies with me to join in. Just say "I'm in" and I'll be sure to include you on the Facebook "event" I'll create for each experience. Whether you can make it or not, I'll be there. :) It's gonna be a fun year of good eatin'!

Here are the places in consideration, for now. (Obviously, I'll cut this list way down, based on menu, prices, location, and kitch-factor probably. If you have any thoughts on any of these places, please share 'em, so I can weigh your words along with what my research is showing me about the places.)

Animal, 435 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 90036 (nearby, organic, menu items include BBQ pork belly sandwiches, slaw, fried cornbread, collards, country ham, red peas, grits, chard, slab bacon, and a dessert called bacon chocolate crunch bar, which I must try)

Aunt Kizzy's, 523 Washington Blvd., Marina Del Rey, 90292 (nearby, closed Tuesdays, menu items include chicken fried steak, Miss Flossie's chicken & dumplings, spicy hot links with red beans & rice, Uncle Wade's oxtails, fried okra, hush puppies, cornbread muffins, Aunt Kizzy's sweet potato pie, Aunty Johnnies's peach cobbler pie; bonus points for Sunday brunch)

Aunt Rosa Lee's Mississippi Soul Food, 2781 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, 90018 (not too far away, closes early, no official website and only one review--but it's a glowing one--no menu items mentioned beyond the obligatory black-eyed peas and collard greens)

Baby Blues BBQ, 7953 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hollywood (close to home, annoying website with no "off" button on the music, menu items include "Get Down Miss Brown" pulled pork plate, Marion County slow-smoked chicken, Memphis Queen smoked baby back ribs, smoked link sandwich with cotija cheese & hot peppers, coleslaw, fried okra, creamed spinach, collard greens, cornbread, chicken-smoked rice)

Beachwood BBQ, 131-1/2 Main St., Seal Beach, 90740 (far away, happy hour 3pm to 6pm Tuesday through Friday, menu items include Lena's famous fried pickles, BBQ chicken nachos, barbecue chicken salad with smoked chili buttermilk dressing, sauteed prawns in sharp cheddar cheese grits, brisket on a toasted potato roll, buffalo sloppy Joes, fried green tomatoes, pulled chicken, bleu cheese grits, tangy coleslaw, hush puppies)

Bertha's Soul Food, 1714 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles, 90047 (close to home, gorgeous website, daily lunch specials, menu items include black-eyed peas, collard greens, cabbage, chitterlings, neckbones and hamhocks, beans and rice, peach cobbler, sweet potato pie)

Bud's Louisiana Café, 10425 Tierrasanta Blvd., San Diego, 92124 (far away, closed Sunday and Monday, happy hour and old-people dinner time discounts, menu items include seafood gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, jalapeno cornbread muffins, pulled pork po boys, crawfish étouffée, fried oysters, fried catfish, shrimp remoulade salad, bread pudding, creole pecan pie)

Chef Marilyn's Soul Food Express, 5068 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 90019 (not far, love her photo on the website, 99-cent sides, menu items include cornbeef with cabbage, neckbones, southern style oxtails, salmon croquette, fried catfish, chicken links with BBQ sauce, cornbread, collard greens, black-eyed peas, lima beans, peach cobbler)

Cru, 1521 Griffith Park Blvd., Los Angeles, 90026 (not far, a raw-slash-vegan-slash-gluten-free-slash-organic place I actually have a gift certificate for, limited options for southern-style eating, menu items include southern-style black-eyed peas with mashed sweet potatoes served with collard greens and cranberry persimmon compote)

The Gumbo Pot, 6333 W. Third St., Los Angeles, 90036 (nearby, Farmer's Market location so there's lots of fun stuff to do there, menu items include gumbo ya ya, seafood gumbo, drunken shrimp, vegetarian red beans and rice, cajun meatloaf, crawfish tail po boy, alligator tail filet, soft shell crab po boy, French Quarter muffelata, green salad with peppered pecans, creole mustard potato salad)

Harold and Belle's, 2920 W. Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles, 90018 (not too far, really gorgeous food photos on the website, menu items include crawfish éttouffée, catfish po boy, spicy crawfish popcorn, fried crabcakes, homestyle meatloaf, clam chowder, fried red snapper, fried frog legs, lobster scampi, bread pudding, key lime pie)

Home, 1760 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles, 90027 (not far, I've actually eaten here before--years ago--when a friend wanted to treat me to a "true, southern meal" and I can't recall whether it was a victory or not, menu items include Grandma Dee's southern fried chicken, mom's meatloaf, veggie meatloaf, BBQ baby back ribs, waffle fries, Tex-Mex burrito, southern chicken fried steak and eggs)

Honey's Kettle, 9537 Culver Blvd., Culver City, 90232 (nearby, recipe for their biscuits are right on the website--but the menu is not, so I assume that menu items include the main-page-mentioned hand-dipped chicken and fish, shucked corn, snapped green beans, biscuits, pies)

House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd., W. Hollywood, 90069 (nearby, maybe too touristy or cliché, menu items include creole seafood jambalaya, cajun meatloaf, BBQ baby back ribs, crispy catfish nuggets, pan-seared voodoo shrimp, rosemary skillet cornbread, white chocolate banana bread pudding, key lime pie)

Industry Café and Jazz, 6039 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 90232 (nearby, live jazz 8pm to 11pm, a combination of East African Injera specialties and southern-style soul food, menu items include catfish, red snapper, collard greens, cornbread muffins, candied yams)

Jack-n-Jill's Too, 8738 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, 90048 (nearby, breakfast served 'til 5pm, the creole hangover omelet, the Texas crepe, smoked chix gumbo, sweet potato melts, Lafayette crepes, Nutella banana crepes, beer-battered onion rings, Camille's po boy, Gulf Coast arbiatta, the Grambling tater--OMG, I'm going for the potatoes alone)

Johnny Rebs', 4663 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach, 90805 (not close, but may be worth the drive, menu items include BBQ hot link sandwich, smoked chicken wings, home fried potato chips with cool ranch, sampler plate of cajun sausage hot link sausage hush puppies onion rings and BBQ sauce for dippin', fried green tomatoes seasoned with bacon, cajun poppers, fried okra, chicken fried steak, southern fried chicken and Texas caviar over greens, drop biscuit peach cobbler, fried Mississippi mud pie)

Larkin's Joint, 1496 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, 90041 (not terribly close, looks a little "southern-style California cuisine fusion" action is going on here, menu items include Warm Okra & Heirloom Tomato Salad, gumbo, jambalaya, fried catfish, BBQ beef brisket, fried okra, portabello Fries, garlic-roasted corn on the cob, momma's meatloaf sandwich, deep-fried grilled cheese sandwich, Sistah Nelson's BBQ portabello sandwich)

Les Sisters', 21818 Devonshire St., Chatsworth, 91311 (not terribly close, menu items include Louisiana hot links, oyster po boys, jambalaya, crawfish étouffée, filé gumbo, hush puppies, Clara's peach cobbler, sweet potato pie, Dana's famous buttermilk pie, bourbon bread puddin')

Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ, 21420 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, 90503 (not too far, menu items include Pop's beloved fresh pan-blackened catfish, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and southern braised greens, southern-fried catfish and shrimp, Jambalaya, Louisiana pasta, New Orleans gumbo, Joe's meatloaf, homemade biscuits with apple butter)

Magnolia's, 342 Euclid Ave., San Diego, 92114 (super far but could be a fun trip, menu items include catfish fingers, crab cakes, crawfish bisque, fried oysters, liver and onions, jambalaya, chitterlings, crawfish éttouffée, hush puppies, candied yams, black-eyed peas, coleslaw, fried okra, sweet potato pie, bread pudding, peach cobbler)

Mattie's Southern Kitchen, food truck! (yep, we actually have to FIND it because it's a badass food truck!!! What an adventure! Menu items include fried chicken, Eastern Carolina pulled pork BBQ, shrimp and grits, collard greens, creamed corn, blackened catfish po boy, buttermilk biscuits)

Memphis at the Beach, 1142 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, 90266 (nearby, lovely location, a little high-end California-fusion looking, menu items include cornmeal fried chicken salad, crab cakes, steamed mussels and clams, popcorn shrimp tacos, pulled pork sliders, fried okra, hush puppies, potato pancakes, meatloaf stack, soul burger, bison burger, shellfish jambalaya with dirty rice, seared dayboat scallops with roasted green chile grits and asparagus succotash)

Miss Peaches, 5643 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hollywood, 91601 (not too far, closed Sundays, menu items include chicken and waffles, smothered pork chop, BBQ hot links, black-eyed peas, yams, cornbread, sweet potato pie, gooey butter cake, sock-it-to-me cake, Aunt Myrtle's lemon cake, peach cobbler)

Po Folks, 7701 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, 90620 (not close, of course I've been to Po Folks all through the Atlanta area so this is safe and chain-like, no bonus points for kreeyativ spellin', menu items include onion rangs, fried green t'maters, chicken livers, chicken gizzards, kuntry fried steak salad, chicken n' dumplings, fried okra, po-tater salad, sliced t'maters, baked apples, turnip greens)

Roscoe's, 1514 N. Gower St., Hollywood, 90028 (over where we used to live, a Hollywood institution, not sure why folks consider this "southern," as there has never been a waffle served with chicken at any southern dinner I ever had, menu items include, well, chickens and waffles)

The Serving Spoon, 1403 Centinela Ave., Inglewood, 90302 (not far away, gorgeous website, breakfast served all day, daily specials, menu items include pork links, salmon croquettes, chicken sausage, chitterlings, meatloaf, oxtails, beef short ribs, chicken dressing, Salisbury steak, peach cobbler)

South, 3001 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 90403 (seriously one of my favorite places in town and not just because I can walk there from my house, their pulled-pork nachos are a regular item in my diet, happy hour 3pm to 8pm weekdays, menu items include gator wings, sweet potato fries, sausage bread, bayou chicken sandwich, collard greens, coleslaw, jalapeño cornbread, cheesy grits, bacon ranch potato salad, voodoo shrimp, Miss Gloria's bourbon pecan pie, a sweet tea martini that will rock your world, and of course the aforementioned pulled-pork nachos)

Spring Street Smokehouse, 640 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, 90012 (not super close, but going downtown is always fun, ordering style like Old Hickory House, menu items include cajun stuffed chicken, burnt ends, pork spare ribs, sliced beef brisket, Louisiana hot links, pulled pork sandwich, coleslaw, mashed sweet potato, hush puppies, pickled eggs, bourbon bread pudding, s'mores)

Tart, 115 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 90036 (not too far, tattooed lady on the website intimidates me a bit but the menu looks great, California fusion menu items include fried green tomatoes, truffle mac and cheese, crawfish spring rolls, crispy alligator, southern fried chicken, creole paella, seafood boil for two, jambalaya pizza, crawfish mashed potatoes, crispy grit cakes)

Uncle Darrow's Cajun Restaurant, 2560 S. Lincoln Blvd., Marina Del Rey, 90292 (super close, breakfast on the weekends, menu items include red beans and rice, jambalaya, filé gumbo ya ya, buttermilk biscuits with mamma's gravy, salmon croquettes)

Vegisoul, 1436 W. Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles, 90007 (not too far, closed Mondays, take-out only which means we have to plan a spot to eat our goods, good for our vegan friends, menu items include "see food" gumbo, "fibbs," red beans, habe vegiburger, blackened tofu, vegan cornbread, vegan butter pecan ice cream)

Venni Mac's M&M Seafood, 5496 Centinela Ave., Los Angeles, 90045 (nearby, menu items include BBQ hot links, red beans and rice, smothered chicken, short ribs, liver and onions, oxtails, collard greens and yams, succotash, cabbage, cornbread dressing, chitterlings)

Zeke's BBQ Smokehouse, 7100 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hollywood, 90046 (nearby, menu items include hush puppies with honey butter, fresh made kettle chips with ranch, smokehouse hot wings, hot links, Carolina pulled-pork sandwich topped with slaw, cold meatloaf sandwich, southern fried catfish sandwich with remoulade sauce, Memphis baby back ribs, Kansas City spare ribs, Texas beef brisket, applesauce, root beer float, warm bread pudding with bourbon sauce, pecan pie)

Okay, I'm hungry just typing all of this up!

So, are you ready? Let's do this! It'll be fun, y'all! :) Thanks, my community, for turning a Facebook status update into a new "thing" for 2010. Yay!

Posted by bonnie at 1:46 AM | Comments (14)