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November, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

The cousins all together

Here’s a roundup of my 2017 Thanksgiving celebration. I reached to my cousins for a get together. Our mothers have died in the past few years, and I thought it would be good for us to reconnect. Here’s a pictorial diary of the meal:

My cousin Gale with our smoked turkey

My cousin Marion’s baked ham

Mashed potatoes

My dad’s collard greens, picked this morning from his garden.

Cornbread dressing

Mac ‘n’ cheese, with the corner piece missing!

Spiced cranberry sauce


My cousin Emma with her kale, bacon and onion pie with homemade crust!

Frogmore salad

Pumpkin pie

Lemon meringue pie

My contribution: Amish fried pecan pies

The full spread

Can Jackson Soul Food Play an “Inside-Outside” Game in Miami?

I’ve eaten in soul food restaurants all across the country. It’s unusual to find a soul food restaurant outside of a predominately black neighborhood, or a part of town where African Americans work. Jackson Soul Food aims to be the exception to the rule.

Jackson Soul Food is an old-school joint that’s operated in Miami since 1946. That means it’s only two years younger than The Florida Avenue Grill in Washington, D.C. which is the oldest known soul food joint. I applaud Jackson for having a second generation of family members and employees who were willing to further the founder’s legacy. Often, the kids aren’t interested in the restaurant business. Frankly, many parents don’t want that. They endured restaurant life in order for their kids to have a better life. Here’s a look at a poster of the restaurant’s history that hangs in the Overtown location:

Pictorial history of Jackson Soul Food

I was pressed for time, so I got a fried catfish (hot & crispy) dinner to go with collard greens (seasoned with smoked turkey), potato salad and pigeon peas & rice for sides.

I was intrigued by their weekend special of “boiled fish and grits.” I told the general manager that I had never heard of that before. She said it is a popular dish on the Bahamas, and she kind enough to give me a sample. The dish contained chunks of grouper, some vegetable bits and a salty broth. I thought it was good, and will try it again some day.

Boiled fish soup (grouper)

While researching additional soul food restaurants to visit in the Miami area, I came across a Miami.com article reporting that Jackson Soul Food had recently opened up another restaurant in ritzy Miami Beach. Suddenly, I had an excellent opportunity to compare how a soul food restaurant might play out in a predominantly white part of town. Jackson’s Miami Beach location is certainly beautiful, but hard-to-find. There’s no signage yet.


Once I confirmed that I was in the right place, my dinner guest, Derek Kirk of “Soulphoodie,” and I ordered some food. That was an adventure. They were pretty much out of everything I wanted to try. I ultimately got ox tails with white rice, candied yams and a strawberry slushee (you know that I had to get a red drink!). Derek got a nicely done fried pork chop, mac ‘n’ cheese and black-eyed peas.

The entrées were fine, but the sides were disappointing due to a lack of seasoning and flavor. I cut them some slack since they just opened, but if they don’t step up their food game, the Miami Beach location may not be long for this world. Derek thought that the long-term success of this location may depend upon them creating dishes that capture the Miami Beach vibe, perhaps more fusion dishes. I think that and shrinking the menu from what is offered in other locations would probably help as well. I would certainly visit again once the kitchen has worked out the kinks.

All in all, I do wish Jackson Soul Food the very best.

Website: http://www.jacksonsoulfood.com/

Twitter: @JacksonSoulFood


Overtown (first location)
950 NW 3rd Avenue
Miami, FL 33136, United States

Hard Rock Stadium, Section 134

J950/Jackson Soul Food
1330 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL

Opa Locka
14511 NW27th Avenue
Opa Locka, 33054

I’m Thankful for Publix Showing What’s Possible

Though some progress is being made, it’s still uncommon for commercial retailers in the U.S. with a predominantly white clientele to showcase African Americans in their advertising. I love this Thanksgiving commercial from Publix (a retail grocery chain) for several reasons:

  1. It shows African Americans in a compelling and positive light.
  2. It depicts a typical, extended African American family as a typical AMERICAN family celebrating the holidays.
  3. There’s no mention of serving pumpkin pie instead of sweet potato pie.
  4. It aired outside of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and Black History Month.

I hope that viewers will take the time to thank Publix for this advertising campaign, and I hope that it inspires a similar efforts from other retailers.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Ida B.’s Table, Baltimore, MD

I can’t say enough about the excellent dining experience that I had at Ida B’s Table, a new, “modern soul food” restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland. The restaurant is named after civil rights legend Ida B. Wells. If you don’t know about her, you definitely should learn more.

Chef David Thomas and his wife, Tonya, have extensive restaurant experience, and it shows at this beautiful restaurant. Check out the interior.

The food is superlative as well!

Chef David Thomas with a tray of deviled eggs.

Catfish bites with a remoulade dipping sauce.

Chicken curry on marble rye

Deviled eggs topped with watermelon radish or fried chicken skin

African spiced beef short ribs on “trough mash.”

Seafood stew

Oatmeal and quinoa risotto

Shrimp and grits

Deviled egg topped with pork belly

And the desserts? Lord, have mercy!

Brown sugar pie with buttermilk ice cream

Coffee cake bread pudding

Look, y’all, this is a new restaurant, and they need your support in order to survive. Tell your folks and friends in Baltimore to give them a try. If you’re ever in that area, stop by for a fantastic meal!

Hoover’s Cooking, Austin, TX

With Hoover Alexander

I’ve known Hoover Alexander for more than a decade, thanks to the Southern Foodways Alliance. We served on its board together. We struck up a friendship, so every time I’m in Austin, I look him up.

I love visiting his restaurant in East Austin, Hoover’s Home Cooking. The menu is a mix of southern food, soul food and barbecue. In fact, I made two trips during my stay.


A “Beet-a-rita”: a beet puree-based margarita

A jerk pork sparerib

Blackberry cobbler

My second meal happened on my way to the airport, so it was my last meal in Austin.

Chargrilled catfish, okra & tomatoes, kale & beets and squash medley.

This is a “glass” of lemonade.

Cornbread muffin and sweet potato biscuit

If you’re ever in Austin, you should definitely visit and support Hoover’s Cooking. It’s one of the few soul food joints left in the city!

Hoover’s Cooking2002 MANOR RD, AUSTIN, TX, 78722, (512) 479-5006, –HOWDY@HOOVERSCOOKING.COM



A Taste of Piedmont-style BBQ

Thanks to friends Carroll Leggett and Peter Hairston, I grubbed on some Piedmont-style bbq by visiting Lexington Barbecue, also known as Honey Monk’s.

I had a coarse chopped pork plate with reddish bbq slaw, pickles, fries, hush puppies, Cheerwine and a slice of pecan pie. My friends got the chopped pork tray (smaller portion, no fries).  My barbecue was kind of dry, so I probably would have liked the finer chopped pork that my friends got. All in all, it was a tasty meal.

Black’s Barbecue, Lockhart, TX

I had some free time after wrapping up my talk at the Texas Book Festival, si I trekked to Lockhart, Texas to visit some old school Texas-style barbecue places.

First up was Black’s barbecue.

Black’s exterior

When you enter, you line up for side dishes first.

Marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes

Various sides

Various sides

THEN you get to choose from the delectable meats.

I then sat in the main dining room to sample my choices.

The main dining area.

Sliced beef brisket, pork spareibs, garlic sausage, jalapeno slaw, Cheddar cheese, saltine crackers.

The meats were fine, but the that I remembered most was dessert. It was amazing!

Pecan cobbler

Acadiana Restaurant, Washington, D.C.

After my event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., I caught up with a friend for a late meal at Acadiana. I’ve long wanted to eat there, but never got the chance. Fortunately, my friend Dimple was game.

Me and Dimple.

We began with a couple of “trio” appetizers.

Trio of Pies: Natchitoches meat, crawfish and southern vegetable with a buttermilk dipping sauce.

Trio of Deviled Eggs: crab ravigote, shrimp remoulade & choupique caviar

For the main course came two excellent entrées.

Pan crisped roasted duck with dirty rice, collard greens and a pepper jelly glaze.

Wild blue catfish, cornmeal noodles, smoked mushrooms, pearl onions with a creole tomato sauce.

The desserts were interesting as well.

Seasonal sorbet sampler: orange, pineapple and sweet tea (my fave)

Sweet potato creme brulee

A very tasty meal, and definitely worth the wait.

Fargo’s Pit BBQ in Bryan, TX.

While in Austin for the Texas Book Festival, I was lucky enough to hear about another African American-owned-and-operated barbecue restaurant in Bryan, Texas (not too far from College Station, home of Texas A&M). Daniel Vaughn, Texas Monthly’s barbecue editor, love this place, and listed it as a fave in his great book Prophets of Smoked Meat. Even though it would be a two-hour drive, I decided to make the trip. I’m sooo glad that I did!

The smoked meat case.

Your order is taken while you’re in line, before you get to the counter.

Desiring some variety,  I ordered sliced brisket, a beef rib, pork spareribs, sausage, smoked chicken, collards and cabbage, mac ‘n’ cheese, superlative peach cobbler, white bread, and a sweet/unsweet tea mix. All of the edible products come wrapped in paper.

Pork spareribs and link sausage

Collards & cabbage

Mac ‘n’ cheese

A beef rib

Smoked chicken

Peach cobbler

As you can see, Fargo’s gets a lot of business on thd Aggies’s game days.

Another great place to support if you’re ever in the area.

Davis Grocery & BBQ in Taylor, Texas.

In preparation for my next book, I’ve been on the lookout for African American-owned-and-operated barbecue restaurants. I found a great one in Taylor, Texas.

The place is run by Rev. James Davis (pictured below in black), who started a grocery business 24 years ago. The grocery soon added barbecue offerings, and it remains a hybrid business to this day.

A pile of wood is always a good sign outside of a bbq joint.

I like to order unusual menu items, though my fave and standard choice is pork spareribs. In this case, it was mutton.

It was very succulent, and something I definitely want more of in the future.

I rounded out my plate with pork spareribs, sliced pork “steak” (a shoulder meat cut),  smothered cabbage (seasoned with brisket and sausage), potato salad, white bread, onions, pickles and Big Red soda.

Business was slow enough that Rev. Davis spent time talking to me about his childhood barbecue memories, how he got started in the business, the challenges of staying in business, and issues oc faith. I really enjoyed it, and this place is worth a visit. It will certainly feature this place in my next book.

Groceries still sold at this operation.

The sides collection.