I was raised in the South so I know something about “Southern” cuisine. Living in the Northeast now, I knew that finding true Southern food was not going to be easy or even likely.
A couple of blocks away from our apartment is a restaurant we’ve been interested in checking out for a while and last Friday on a whim we passed it and took a peek at the menu posted outside. The menu made our mouths water but we cautiously considered how close to “Carolina” cuisine could it be? We went in to inquire about reservations since it was Friday and often a busy time for restaurants, we were met by a warm, friendly hostess who made our reservation and thanked us for stopping by – that’s how “Southern folk” are.
We arrived for our 6pm reservation prepared but guarded. That hostess we met earlier was actually our server (Felicia). We were seated and the first item was cornbread, let’s pause for a moment. I’ve learned that not all cornbread is created equal, I grew up on “sweet” cornbread aka Jiffy Cornbread which is magical when fresh out of the pan with a little butter. So I tried it, well I sat back in my seat – I was the most moist cake-like cornbread I ever put in my mouth.
It was time for dinner and I decided the true test would be the Southern fried pork chop (yep, take it all in).
This was love on a plate. The pork loin chop was topped with sautéed red onions and beef bacon over a rice pilaf. I got collards (of course) and black-eyed peas for sides. One bite of the pork and I was immediately transported back to my Mother’s kitchen on Sundays after church. The collards were spicy but not overpowering and the peas were in a tomato sauce that added a little “tang” to them.
My husband ordered the Shrimp and Grits and I got a bite of his and I got teary eyed, that made me homesick. This is a little unassuming spot in downtown NJ but they managed to “knock it out of the park” for this Southern duo and Felicia made us feel like distant family that came over to Big Mama’s house for Sunday dinner. Don’t take my word for it, check out my husband’s post on his blog here
We’ve found our home away from home with Dukes Southern Table.