Chicago residents have this weird thing about visiting the North Side, West Side, or South Side. People from the South Side seem to have this distaste for the North Side and West Side. People on the West Side have a disdain for the South Side and North Side. People on the North Side will make comment about the other “sides” of Chicago, but don’t really care. And then you have residents like me who will travel to wherever if there is good food to be had. Think I’m lying? Yep, that’s how I made that trip to Bronzeville on the South Side to have something from Cleo’s Southern Cuisine.
Small on the inside, there is a community table and a set of high chairs along the window. Knowing that I was going to give in completely to my appetite, I sat at the end of the community table so that I could have some elbow room.
The Sizzling Swamp is flavor gold. Lump crab on top of fried catfish on top of grits. They used more than just salt an pepper in the recipe and I’m all for that. The candied yams with pineapples only needed some crust because that side dish had pie potential. And the baked macaroni and cheese? They got it right. Oh, and I washed it all down with a tall glass of grape Kool-Aid that was accented with lemonade.
Gotta give a shout out to the outstanding service. Felt like going to a friend’s house from the moment I entered until I waddled out. But the food is the winner, for sure. This is one of the few times I didn’t feel like I went to a soul food restaurant that was attempting soul food or Southern cooking. My friend who popped in while I was there also fell in love with the food. The price may be a bit off-putting for some, but it’s the same price, if not less, that you pay at a lot of big box restaurants. At Cleo’s the food just tastes way better.