Quick — buy state senator Vicki Marble a copy of Adrian Miller's Soul Food: The Surprising Story of An American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time. In his new book, Denverite Miller, an attorney and politico, tells the history of how soul food evolved, corrects plenty of misconceptions about the cuisine, and also explains the difference between Southern and soul food. All of which should be useful to Marble, who said this yesterday while discussing racial disparities in the poverty rate: "When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race. Sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up, diabetes is something that's prevalent in the genetic makeup and you just can't help it. Although I've got to say, I've never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down South and you...I love it...."
Do you love Southern cooking, too? And are your tastes a little more discerning than Marble's? Keep reading for Miller's list of the five best Southern food restaurants in Denver. (The list is his, the descriptions ours — and note that Miller's five best soul-food restaurants do not reappear on this list — but you'll definitely want to try them, too.) See also: - Five best soul-food restaurants in Denver - What's the difference between Southern and soul food? Ask Adrian Miller - Adrian Miller wrote the book on soul food — one plate at a time.
5. NoNo's Cafe 3005 West County Line, Littleton Better wear the elastic-waistband jeans to NoNo's Cafe, a Southern-style eatery that serves comfort food in the extreme. NoNo's features food so bad (for you) it's good, from big, bacony breakfasts to an outrageous stacked macaroni and cheese that's served as a heaping accompaniment to many entrees. NoNo's also satisfies a New Orleans jones with gumbo, catfish dishes and every imaginable kind of po' boy sandwich; beignets and chicory coffee are nice, authentic touches.
The simple things — a long bowl of sliced bananas and heavy cream dusted with brown sugar, eggs Benny done Creole-style, a Cajun breakfast of red-bean-and-ham hash — prove that Lucile's knows how to do comfort food right. For close to three decades (when the original Boulder restaurant opened), the kitchen has made everything from its own hot sauce to apple butter, pepper-spiked sausage gravy, Creole seasoning (which the house also sells) and a proprietary blend of house coffee; the biscuits alone are reason to beatify the chef. In all, Lucile's serves up the best New Orleans breakfasts this side of the bayou.
3. Jezebel's 3301 Tejon Street
Need some Southern comfort? In late 2012, husband-and-wife team Wanda James and Scott Durrah — the people behind the Caribbean-flavored 8 Rivers — along with partner/general manager Scott Perry opened Jezebel's in a hot part of Highland. The restaurant occupies the former home of Squeaky Bean, which held a drug store at the turn of the last century, and that history shows in the old tiled floor and big windows. But the space has gotten an update with a big bar, stools upholstered with purple alligator (which are often occupied by Nuggets) and, most important, an actual kitchen. And that kitchen stays busy day and night, cranking out authentic Southern fare, including great fried chicken and shrimp and grits.
2. Sassafras 2637 West 26th Avenue
When Sassafras opened in an old Victorian bungalow listed on the National Register of Historic Places (it was the original home of La Loma), co-owner Julia Grother brought considerable experience in the restaurant business to the neighborhood - and a lot of Southern comfort. The space itself is cozy, with a big wraparound porch and wallpaper reminiscent of a great-aunt's parlor. There are plenty of authentic Southern dishes on the breakfast-and-lunch-only menu: collard greens, which come with the fried chicken; gumbo, which gets its deep, earthy kick from filé powder; shrimp and grits; and fried green tomatoes, which are featured in a Benedict and as the stuffing of a sandwich. And then there are the biscuits, which chef Colin Mallet brought to his job interview with Grother. One bite of one of these golden creations and you'll know why he's in the kitchen here.
1. Tom's Home Cookin' 800 East 26th Avenue
Tom's Home Cookin' is a true Denver treasure. For more than a decade, Tom's has been a stick-to-your-ribs, lunch-only respite for soul-food seekers and Southerners, blue-collar workers and chefs, chatterers and chicken-chasers. The fried chicken, profoundly moist with skin crusted the color of copper, flies right every single time. It's a sign of more goodness to come: peach cobbler, macaroni and cheese (it's the Velveeta, people), cornbread stuffing and whatever else owners Steve Jankousky and Tom Unterwagner have on the day's chalkboard. Get in line early, because Tom's sells out fast.
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