Michelle's Soul Food Kitchen is a pop-up operating out of the Retired Men's Social Club (RMSC) in Seaside. http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/n... Though I've known about Michelle's for a few years now, I was never in the right place at the right time. Then last month I had an errand nearby and remembered to check it out. I called ahead to be sure it was open. The languid, husky voice confirmed, told me the day's specials are oxtails and neck bones, and said they'd be waiting to feed me.
Michelle&amp;#39;s menu includes some regular selections and often a couple of specials.
Michelle&amp;#39;s daughter helps her take orders in the front and other family members assist with cooking. Michelle&amp;#39;s mother operated the Broadway Deli in Seaside during Fort Ord&amp;#39;s boom years in the seventies and eighties. Their roots are in Texas and New Orleans.
The fried catfish, $15, was so delicate and clean tasting, greaseless (slice of Roman meal bread underneath), and accompanied with a slightly sweet tartar sauce. I added a dash of Louisiana Cravin&amp;#39; Cajun hot sauce for more flair. Non-sweet cornbread enriched with a little butter was soft and fragile with a tender, cake-like texture. I couldn&amp;#39;t pick just two sides, so got three, paying $2 extra. Mac n cheese tasted like comfort with a classic velvet blend, fresh collard greens seasoned with bacon and a touch of heat, and then fresh yams not canned but too much bitter nutmeg under the brown sugar glaze.
A self-serve station offers cold lemon water or Southern style sweet Luzianne iced tea, complimentary with a meal. The bar for RMSC opens at 3pm on Fridays.
Michelle came over to check on me when the crowd died down. On learning that this was my first time, she insisted that I taste a sample of her oxtails and braised smoked pork neck bones. Of course, they were very tasty and I liked the unthickened soup-y juices.
I was back last Friday when smothered chicken, $13, was the special. Four pieces (three wing flats with tips and one wing drummette), juicy of meat with batter that stayed crunchy under the smothering, were doused with a meaty pork-based gravy. A base of plain white rice, similar in texture to Vietnamese com tam (broken rice) underneath helped catch that delectable gravy. The gravy was only moderately thickened and had a very natural, not too salty taste. Those marvelous collard greens again for me. And this time I tried the red beans and rice, a scoop of red beans and their simmering liquid over soft rice. I wouldn&amp;#39;t have ordered them if I&amp;#39;d realized the smothered chicken included rice, but glad I got to try another side.
A friend happened to be at Michelle&amp;#39;s at the same time and joined me for lunch. This is his plate of fried chicken. Did I mention how crunchy that batter is?
For later, the two-buck portion of peach cobbler to go. Tasting it warm before closing up the container, the canned peaches were infused with spicy syrup that was less sweet than typical and a buttery, short cobbler crust. This was just crying out for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Some customers brought in their own dinnerware and/or take-out containers. I might do that next time instead of eating off styrofoam and paper plates. And if I plan ahead, bring some vanilla ice cream to enjoy the peach cobbler hot from the oven in its full glory.
Michelle's Soul Food Kitchen pops up on Friday from noon to 3pm and 3:30pm to 7pm. Michelle is hoping to get permission to serve here on Thursdays as well, so stay tuned. The menu is posted on its website each week and call-in orders are welcome.
Around this time of year, I typically post a pick on the Monterey Peninsula for the visitors coming to the area for Car Week and the Concours d'Elegance. This year, it's Michelle's. Her cooking has a lot of love in it and the family members are so welcoming and nice. I also loved this reminder of the African-American culture that flourished in Seaside when I was growing up that's now mostly gone.
Michelle's Soul Food Kitchen
2087 Del Monte Blvd
Seaside, CA 93955
(Next door to Hertz)