Craving good soul food? Just head south.
To South Charleston, that is, where a small, new restaurant is making big waves on the local food scene.
And don’t let the name fool you, either. There’s not just something good, but LOTS to love at Sumthin’ Good Soul Food.
Open just three months, Sumthin’ Good is located in the same storefront that recently housed Mary Lou’s BBQ & Kitchen along MacCorkle Avenue in Spring Hill. That space has been transformed into a bright, clean, cheerful spot offering an all-new look and feel.
Customers walk up to the counter to place their orders by eye-balling a buffet of ready-made meats and sides. After making your picks, you get your (paper) plate and (plastic) utensils, pay right there and take your food off to a table to dig in — all within just a few minutes time.
Different items are prepared fresh throughout the day, but options typically include brisket, pork chops, fried chicken, pulled pork and barbecued ribs, along with baked beans, cabbage, mac ’n’ cheese, potato salad, coleslaw, collard greens, candied yams and more.
In other words, comfort food at its best.
It was tough deciding what to try first, so I went with one of my Southern standby meals: barbecued ribs with mac ’n’ cheese and collard greens.
The ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and screaming with flavor. A little sweet, a little heat, a little smoky — and a whole lot of delicious. The collard greens were wonderfully balanced as well. Not too salty and not too bitter (a common collard calamity) and slightly smoky, too. The mac ’n’ cheese would’ve been perfect had it just been a little warmer so the cheese would’ve been all ooey-gooey good.
You also get a fresh-baked roll or wedge of cornbread on the side. The cornbread was OK (a tad dry and dense for my taste) so I’ll definitely opt for the roll next time.
My lunch date, Caryn, enjoyed that day’s special: shrimp ’n’ grits with fried green tomatoes.
She reported that the shrimp were delicious and the grits super-cheesy, resulting in a slightly thicker consistency than I’d like. (A little warmer and they’d have been softer, and better, too.) The fried green tomatoes were fantastic, with a thick, crispy cornmeal and spicy-pepper coating that didn’t get the least bit soggy after frying.
We also were lucky enough to stop by when the chef was handing out samples of a new recipe he was testing, the interestingly named “Chunky Butt.” Despite our raised eyebrows, we accepted (and devoured) a delicious bite of tender, flavorful pork butt slow-roasted with onions and peppers for hours.
I hope this makes it on the regular menu, because it was sumthin’ special indeed. If so, I’ll definitely order it next time, along with the banana cake and sweet potato pie I didn’t save room for this time around.
Pleasant surroundings and delicious food notwithstanding, one of the aspects I enjoyed most about my visit was just how genuinely friendly everyone behind the counter was. The guy filling our plates, the chef talking about his new creation, the owner bringing a plate of fresh fried green tomatoes from the back — everyone was smiling, talking and interacting with customers the whole time.
That comforted my soul just as much as the food did. And that, my friends, is what soul food is all about.
You need Sumthin’ Good in your life. Trust me on this one.
IF YOU GO: Sumthin’ Good Soul Food, 4845 MacCorkle Ave. SW in the Spring Hill area of South Charleston, is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. They are closed Saturday and Sunday. For information, call 304-768-0968 or visit “Sumthin’ Good Soul Food” on Facebook.
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Speaking of the South, several readers reached out to say how much they enjoyed reading last week’s account of my chance lunch at a place that only two days before had just been named “America’s Best New Restaurant” by Bon Appetit magazine.“I loved your article on Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans,” wrote Bonnie Howard Brothers, president of the University of Charleston Builders, an alumni group that works to promote the school’s image and growth. “Only a local person or a restaurant editor of Bon Appetit could lead you to such a treasure.”
I’m looking forward to talking about that restaurant — and others around our city and state — as the group’s featured speaker at a luncheon on the UC campus later this month..
Steven Keith writes a weekly food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and an occasional food blog at blogs.wvgazettemail.com/foodguy. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Facebook as “WV Food Guy” and on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as “WVFoodGuy.”