Let me preface this review by stating that this is my first post on Chowhounds. I have been observing the boards for the past month and am quite impressed and excited by the amazing community spirit and knowledge shared by the Bay Area chowhounds. I hope to contribute in my own small way to the collective wisdom found here.
I have been a chowhound my entire life. The gospel of good eating was instilled at an early age, fueled by an extended southern family that approached life and food with a passion. I quickly shed the culture of the south, but my appreciation for good food has never waned. In fact, food became my life while working as a chef for 12 years both in the US and abroad. I no longer wield a knife everyday, but I still seek the ultimate meal every-time I sit down to the table.
That brings me to chicken and Nellies. It's a rare thing to find great southern cooking outside of the South. I'm not sure why. If honestly prepared, good southern cooking is simplicity itself. So it was with high expectations that I trekked out to Nellies after reading the glowing reports on this board. After several recent meals, I think I'm ready to pass judgement, or at least make a few comments. The overall experience - pretty darn good. Possibly the most authentic I've had in the Bay Area.
The fried chicken. Better the first time than the second. Excellent crust, moist and tender, well seasoned, not too greasy. The best I've ever had... No. That claim falls to Buntyn in Memphis, Tennessee. Now that was some outstanding chicken, each order pan fried and perfect. Nellies doesn't quite rise to the caliber of Mrs. Wilkes in Savannah, Georgia either, who also produces phenomenal pan fried chicken. That's the mark of truly great fried chicken, lovingly coaxed out of a cast iron skillet. But Nellies comes close. Popeyes only wishes it could be this good.
The sides. Good gravy. Why is it so hard for restaurants to make a real honest brown gravy. It's not rocket science, but it might as well be for most. Nellies gravy works well with either the classic bland white rice or the mashed potatoes. A+ in my book. The greens were close to perfection, just the right amount of acid, smoke and sugar. Black Eyed Peas, smooth and buttery, a killer combination. The yams had outstanding flavor, but the consistency was a little soft and way too sweet.
The corn muffins. When they are fresh out of the oven they are superb, but their diminutive size does not respond well to sitting around, they tend to quickly develop a tough exterior. Good flavor and a nice eggy moistness and not too sweet.
Overall, I have to give Nellies a strong recommendation. I've yet to try the Southern Cafe, but you can bet I'll be there soon. However, I would be remiss to not caution those who havent dined in the deep South to think they are experiencing the same thing here in California. I think the lack of certain tangibles such as White Lily flour, stone ground Southern corn meal, country cured pork, local peanut oil and other regional provisions subtly diminishes the final results. The high humidity really does change the quality of most produce grown in the South, and that translates into differences in texture and flavor. Till next time, Brad
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