A few weeks ago, I went back to Jackson, MS, to see family. I had not even dropped my luggage off before I wanted to make a pit stop by the farmers market. Knowing that I would be cooking and baking, I wanted to get some white corn on the cob, lima beans, cranberry peas, collard greens, squash and a few other vegetables. I also wanted to get some peaches for baking a peach cobbler to go with homemade ice cream. For as much as I am a city rat, there will always be the need for indulging some good food from Mississippi that has not been messed up with growth products, additives, and who knows what else.
Having returned from hot and humid Jackson to muggy Chicago, I was strolling through Lincoln Square when it had become apparent that my stomach wasn’t rumbling. It was roaring. And to my blissful surprise, I happen to find myself standing outside Luella’s Southern Kitchen at 4609 N. Lincoln Avenue. Being that I think about eating constantly, I was curious as to whether this was one of those restaurants trying to make an attempt at Southern comfort food. So, I entered and was greeted with a Southern hello. That was all the indication I needed to know that they were not simply passing off Southern cooking as a fad.
Seeing that September came in feeling like July and August, I needed something to cool off. A jar of sweet tea was what I needed to hit the spot. Not getting just plain sweet tea, I had it accented with figs. Either I was incredibly thirsty or this tea was divine.
Now, although I had a severe hankering, I did not want to go overboard. I ordered something that I never, ever, ever had a desire to eat as a child. I had shrimp and grits. I love shrimp like a baby loves a bottle. But grits were absolutely disgusting to me. Unlike the sticky grits of my youth, these were cheesy grits that didn’t congeal. My grandmother is looking down now saying, “You wait to get old to start enjoying Southern table food.” I appreciate the fact that the shrimp and grits were not prepared ala white table-cloth gourmet style.
For a finale, I ordered something to take me down to New Orleans. I had to get some beignets. The beauty of the beignets was not that they were so blooming good, but that they came to the table right out of the fryer. There will never be an argument that you can get beignets outside of New Orleans that are worth getting confectioners sugar on your face. The beignets from Luella’s Southern Kitchen were worth it. And with another jar of sweet tea, I can honestly say that this is where I will return for Southern cooking.
There are plenty seats in Luella’s Southern Kitchen. There is no alcohol on the menu, not that I could see. Coming from Mississippi, I can vouch for the food being authentic in flavor. I must say that a winning tactic I noticed was that the staff actually engaged the diners. The food was already top, so winning patrons over with hospitality is indeed a winner. When I found out that they were from Greenville, MS, it was as if I had gone to my parents’ home. And Luella’s Southern Kitchen will also be like going home.