Although this tour has had some serious potholes, it’s also been full of tiny amazing blessings and I’d love to share some of them.On the first day, we encountered a FULL rainbow that spanned the entire sky. It was stunning. I don’t get how rainbows can be so awesome every time, but they are. We also got to stop in and hug Chad’s dad, aunt and grandmother en route.
Chad was thrilled about this tour because he wanted to do a “soul food” tour of as many of the best independent southern kitchens on our route that we could hit. It’s been a blast meeting these folks and eating in these cornerstones of community along the road.
On our second drive day, we stopped in Tuscaloosa at Maggie’s. It was a cafeteria style where you grab a tray and get your plate filled with Maggie’s home cooked goodness. We all got 4 vegetable plates. Maggie’s green beans and yams were the most amazing I’ve ever had in my life. Chad’s favorite was the turnip greens and Eldridge’s was the collards. We ALL loved her homemade peanut butter cookies. Drool.
Maggie retired from 30 years of working at cafeterias in the public school system to open her kitchen. It’s been open 12 years and she gets up every morning and prepares the goodies for the lunch crowd. They’re all her recipes and she has some help in the kitchen, but she does all the baking fresh daily.
In Atlanta, after we discovered that our gig was canned, we were disappointed, grumpy and feeling sorta screwed and a little hungry, we decided to turn to another famous soul food kitchen for solace. We followed our producer, Papa Mali’s suggestion to visit his favorite soul food kitchen there, Mary Mac’s Tea Room.We were pretty bummed about the shady way we were dismissed from our gig after driving so far, but the folks at Mary Mac’s were super sweet. They brought out baskets of warm fresh rolls, corn muffins and cinnamon rolls as appetizers and gave us complimentary “pot liquor” (broth of collards cooked in hambones) since it was our first time there. Mary Mac’s also has an employee whose sole job is to walk from table to table, greet the patrons and rub their backs. She was a doll. Chad and I ordered veggie plates and Eldridge got meatloaf with 2 veggies. Both Eldridge’s favorite and mine was the pickled beets. Chad’s again was the collard greens. They also had some pretty amazing fried green tomatoes and our waitress informed us that Mary Mac’s has a very special green tomato supplier that has figured out how to provide them year round.
The Atlanta skyline was gorgeous with the sunset and we got to glimpse a beautiful monument erected in Martin Luther King Jr’s honor.
We then found a funky wine bar named Ziba’s and shared a bottle of Romanian Cabernet and played a rockin’ game of scrabble.
After a good night’s rest at a Super 8 on the north side of town, we departed Atlanta for Charlotte where we performed at UNCC.
We made sure to leave early enough to make it to Charlotte in time to discover another treasure of southern cuisine, Simmons’ Soul Food Restaurant. When we walked through the doors, we knew we had found the right place. We were greeted with warmth and humor and the walls were plastered with local, regional and national celebrities who had previously dined at Simmons’. The vibe was way cool. One of the owners was playing chess on an ancient plywood chess board at the booth next to us and we were greeted with the softest cornbread squares while ordering.
Our awesome server, Abdullah (sp?) shared a magazine article that featured Simmons’ as one of NC’s best soul food joints and in the magazine photo there was a shot of their fried pork chop. I NEVER eat pork chops. I mean, I don’t think I’ve had it since I was a KID, but after seeing that photo, I ordered it immediately with greens and yams. Chad got another veggie plate and Eldridge got the Pork Chop with mac & cheese and greens. The collards at Simmons’ were the most unbelievable greens I have ever tasted in my life. There was something a tiny bit sweet about them. DROOL. Oh- and they served a lemonade/iced tea mix that they call the “Obama,” which I thought was cute.
When Abduhla asked us to play, Chad went to the car to get the resonator and he played some slide for the patrons. Then I sang a few tunes. Abdullah ended up joining in on harmony on “The One that You’ve Been Waiting For.” It was a total blast. The meal was awesome. They even requested a poster for their wall of fame.
The gig at UNCC was fun! I met some young journalists afterward. UNCC is a GORGEOUS campus and giant. Here’s a review of the show written by Toby Clark, one of the writers I had the pleasure visiting with after the show.
After the show, my college roommate, Casey came to meet us. We went out for a glass of wine and caught up in “Uptown” Charlottte, a hoppin part of town full of tall buildings and pretty girls in high fashion and heels. It was wonderful catching up telling tales about Natchitoches, LA.This evening, under this gorgeous full moon, we stopped in New Orleans to stretch our legs and get a bite at Coop’s on Decatur St. The boys got red beans and rice with sausage and I got a cup of rabbit and sausage jambalaya and some creole green beans. DELICIOUS!
We are now heading back to Texas after four and a half days of driving with stops to eat, sleep and gig. . .