The opening of The National Memorial for Peace and Justice (Lynching Museum) was simultaneously moving, angering, and saddening. I decided to make the drive to Montgomery, Alabama with my nephews so they could see the struggle of our people both today and yesterday in hopes it would motivate them to press that much harder in achieving success as Black men.
Most people with even a slight interest in local cooking have visited Mrs. B’s Home Cooking, located at 17 Cullman St, Montgomery, AL 36104. From vintage family photos on the walls to warm greetings by restaurant staff, this converted home-turned-eatery, will bring you back to the days of Grandma shucking peas, cutting greens and singing Mahalia Jackson over the stove.
Mrs. Boyd, the owner, was bubbly, welcoming, and above all QUEEN OF MONTGOMERY SOUL FOOD! Her flawless cuisine will please lovers of soul food tremendously.
The place was packed, so I ordered everything at once. African-American cuisine is mostly judged by its side items in my household. If the mac and cheese, collard greens, yams, potato salad, rice, lima beans, black eye peas are trash, then THROW THE WHOLE PLATE AWAY!
First up, the mac and cheese was enjoyable in every way possible. Using elbow pasta allows for the buttery, salty, and cheesy flavors to contour themselves throughout with specs of eggs and milk cooked into the buttery cheesiness for an amazingly beautiful marrying of flavors and creamy texture.
Next, we had the okra. Its sap produced a vegetable legume of sorts with a pleasant mild taste strongly resembling a Lebanese eggplant I had in Miami some weeks ago. This okra was cooked minus tomatoes so no heartburn for me! I stirred okra in with her incredibly fresh black-eyed peas, forming a make-shift and very tasty stew; something I usually do using the peas with either okra or collard greens for a heartier experience, especially on my vegan days.
Wait, did I just mention the greens? Good God Almighty! Mrs. B’s collard greens were a show stopper! I even enjoyed the turnip version, which I usually dislike! Collard greens and their stubborn cousin turnips can be tricky. These dark leafy greens are both hearty, healthy, and delicious. Mrs. B’s were neither chewy nor bitter, cooked to utter perfection in both taste and texture.
I love eating greens with a dab of cornbread, readily available with each meal. The buttermilk-based cornbread is cooked fresh daily. The greens held up well with the bread and didn’t turn into that mushy crap you get at some of these spots that don’t give AF about cooking with love; something Mrs. Boyd said she does each day beginning at 4:00 a.m.
Other legumes included her tasty lima beans with a potato-like starchy texture along with a buttery flavor topped off with salt, pepper, and smokiness. I honestly didn’t see any meat in my serving, so I am unsure if any was used to create that smokiness, but given that I’m in Alabama, I’m going to assume it included meat.
Hopping back to the veggies, we tried a spinach casserole and fried green tomatoes. Both were pure gold. The tomatoes were lightly fried with a beautiful meaty and tender interior surrounded by the golden crust just waiting to be loved by my mouth. Wait, that sounded wrong, but you know what I mean. The casserole was on point with gooey cheese, rice, and seasoned spinach swirling together in perfect harmony!
Following this savory side, we sampled the homemade mash potatoes and candied yams. Both were Grandma-approved in taste, texture, consistency! I finished off our side item sampling with the cream corn and leafy cabbage; steamed just the way I like it, maintaining the nutrients and leafiness, instead of the overcooked version many soul food spots prepare. The cream corn was reminiscent of my elementary school lunch in a good way. Salty, sweet and creamy!
I know you’re tired of reading, but you know soul food menus are huge. So, leave me alone because I haven’t gotten to the meats yet; which were nothing short of heavenly. Starting with the golden fried chicken that was crispy, tender, and juicy with an equal amount of spice and seasoning that will have Colonel Sanders looking for a new gig.
The Meatloaf was super nostalgic for me with its simplicity of seasoned bread crumbs, a dry soup mix like French Onion or Mushroom, a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce, maybe a smidge of liquid smoke and quite possibly a splash of red wine and diced veggies. These ingredients conjoined with an egg and topped with tomato sauce had me doing a happy dance in my brain. Eating it with the mashed potatoes was so good it felt illegal.
The BBQ Ribs were next. They were good for baked ribs, which were seasoned through and through and falling off the bone tender. Keeping with the pork family, I had the smothered pig ears, which were great, but the chitterlings took my number one spot in the swine game! Yep, they were extremely clean and boasted a salted gravy and veggie specs flavor. These wrinkled bacon steaks have gotten a bad rap, but I am here for it, here for it all. The smell. The texture. The taste. GIVE ME ALL THAT!
Next, we had the Fried Fish with buttermilk biscuits. Mrs. Boyd used a flavorful white fish with a homemade batter that crusted nicely, forming a delicious golden-brown coat. The rich, buttery, flaky biscuits were another show stopper; ready for a slather of honey, jelly, or any of your favorite filling!
I spent five days in Montgomery sampling all the local spots, including eating in the homes of total strangers in search of amazing African-American cuisine. I am happy to say that Mrs. B’s Home Cooking was my favorite. It was a hard decision because they were all good. Simply Southern Cafe was a super close second, edged out by Mrs. B’s biscuits! We can’t wait to share our experience at Simply Southern Café in our next article, but for now, we are giving the crown to Mrs. B’s Home Cooking who can be reached at (334) 264-5495.