Bettie Lou's Restaurant, Soul Food Heaven

Happy New Year. Starting 2020 off with realistic resolutions, a new list of international cuisines and restaurants to try, and another list of American restaurants that have a focus on healthy recipes. Now that I am in my 50’s, I have to be mindful of everything since my metabolism doesn’t burn off fat the way that it did when I was in my 20’s and 30’s.

A friend had told me about a post on her high school class page on Facebook. There was mention of a restaurant named Bettie Lou’s Restaurant at 5633 N. Ashland Avenue in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. After a brief review of the menu online, I agreed to meet my friend there so that we could try some of the dishes.

Bang the gavel. Sold!

We started with salmon croquettes, scrambled eggs, and brown rice. Those who are from Down South can speak to having a breakfast consisting of salmon croquettes, rice, and biscuits. You don’t get a Northern brunch. Bettie Lou’s brought a bit of the South to the North Side of Chicago, for sure. The croquettes were not a failed attempt but meaty salmon lightly encrusted with a light batter and fried with onions and bell peppers. The brown rice was the surprise. It occurred to us after we had finished that there was no gravy on the rice. The addition of butter and seasoning actually made me view brown rice in a favorable light.

For a second landing we had turkey chops with cabbage and cheese grits. The turkey chops had been lightly breaded and fried to look like pork chops. It was all turkey and with a well seasoned gravy, it was better than any pork chops I have had. The cabbage reminded me of the same that I have had at countless Jamaican restaurants in Jamaica and off the island. As to the cheese grits, they were a perfect compliment to the course with a proper amount of cheese and creamy consistency.

The third course was of perch served with collard greens and candied yams. The perch was not some thawed fish purchased from the frozen section. We were thankful that it was not encased in a quarter inch of crust. There was a flour batter, which made it very light. As to the greens, this was the first that I have had cooked in a vegan manner that had flavor. Whatever chopped weeds I have had at other vegetarian and vegan restaurants don’t compare to the collard greens at Bettie Lou’s. The yams were not sugary and were just the right balance to the greens. Add to the delight of this landing, the johnny cake that came with the greens made it all feel like New Orleans in Chicago.

My friend had ordered some peach cobbler for takeaway. Before we left, we had a spoonful for a sample. Had it not been for discipline, we would have finished it at the restaurant. The only thing missing was a scoop of ice cream. Once word gets out about how tasty the peach cobbler is, it will be the one thing that will have Bettie Lou’s Restaurant making the news.

For all of the food that we ate, we were sated but not to the point of misery or comatose. That speaks to the ingredients not being so heavy as to leave diners feeling like they’ve eaten past a proper dining threshold. Having gone during the middle of the day on a Saturday, we got the chance to engage the owner in conversation, which made it feel like we had gone to a friend’s or a family member’s house. One thing to note is that dishes are prepared to order. It will take time for food to arrive at the table because nothing is warmed up or microwaved. Although Chicago boasts a long list of soul food, soul food vegetarian, and soul food vegan restaurants, Bettie Lou’s Restaurant has made a flavorful impression on me such that it is now my go-to soul food haunt.

Salmon Croquettes, Brown Rice, Scrambled Eggs
Bettie Lou’s Restaurant (Slideshow)

Luella’s Southern Kitchen, Took Me Back to Mississippi

Luella's Southern Kitchen

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.

Sweet Tea

Sweet Tea

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.

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits

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.

Beignets

Beignets

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.

Luella's Southern Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato