Justin Cooper | Oct 26, 200309:23 PM     5

My wife and I just came back from another impressive meal at "Miya's Place -- Soul Food with a Taste of St. Louis" in Ingleside in San Francisco.

The dinner menu features 3-4 different soul food main dishes each night of the week, with the same selection of sides throughout the week. Typical offerings are meatloaf, baked ham, fish (fried or broiled), fried shrimp, pork chops, and just about any other kind of mean, often smothered in gravy. Never having spent time in St. Louis, I can't say exactly what constitutes the "taste of St. Louis."

Tonight, they gave us a choice of smothered oxtails, fried chicken, fried or broiled catfish or sole, or fried shrimp. I got the oxtails with sides of yams and macaroni & cheese; my wife had fried chicken with green beens and greens (collards, I'm pretty sure). Both dinners came with cornbread muffins, which were made with lots of cornmeal and no sugar, not like that cakey stuff you get at corner stores in New England.

The oxtails were a real treat. They had obviously been cooking for a long time so they were rich, tender and even slightly sticky. As promised, they were smothered in a rich gravy that tasted like it had really been made from pan scrapings and stock. The peeled and quartered yams had been sweetened with brown sugar and lighltly spiced (cinammon, nutmeg, allspice, I don't really know) and were just tender enough without being too mushy. The macaroni and cheese was perfect -- noodles dressed with cheese rather than noodles in cream of cheddar soup. I would order all three of these again, especially the macaroni & cheese.

Because the chicken takes a while to cook, the extremely nice hostess/waitress offered to bring my meal out first, so the two of us had devoured this whole dinner before my wife's meal came out.

If you cannot otherwise be convinced to go to Miya's, go to try the chicken. The best thing about it is that, unlike most restaurant-fried chicken, it is not heavily breaded. In fact, it is so light (well, relatively light--this is fried chicken, after all) that I was convinced it was pan-fried. The chef told us after our meal that he does use a deep-fryer, but he said he uses a light oil and that he just puts a little flour and seasoning on the pieces before he puts them in. The result is a thin, crispy skin that is salty and spicy, while the meat inside is remarkably moist and tender, with no stringiness. The greens are also outstanding; they are cooked for a long time with chunks of ham and have a surprisingly complex flavor. The best part is dunking a cornbread muffin in the liquid at the bottom of the dish. The green beans were overcooked and bland, just like they're supposed to be.

We are not really dessert-eaters, so we paid our $17 and change and left, but there was some homemade pie on the counter that looked pretty good.

Before we left, the hostess came out to give us an extra piece of chicken because she was worried that the portions had been too small--it was a nice gesture. She and the chef/owner both made a point of saying they hoped to see us again soon and the chef chatted with us for a minute about the chicken. He is clearly a guy who cares about cooking.

Miya's has been open since February of this year. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and are open most of the day every day. They seem to cater mostly to take-out customers in the neighborhood; we are usually the only people sitting down when we go there. In fact, I would recommend going there with more than two people if you can; otherwise, it can be pretty quiet. (They do have a TV with cable, though, which is perfect for us football fans.) Also, they do not serve alcohol.

After watching one truly great cheap-eats restaurant. (Asmara on Ocean Ave.--by the way, if anyone knows where the chef from Asmara ended up, please let me know) go under in our neighborhood, I am concerned that Miya's will go the same way. It is in an awkward location, two blocks south of Ocean on the corner of Holloway and Ashton, where there is not a lot of foot traffic and nary a yuppie, much less a restaurant reviewer, in sight. I hope a few chowhounds will make it out there and spread the word.

Miya's Place
Sould Food with a Taste of St. Louis
850 Holloway @ Ashton
San Francisco
(415) 239-5741

Sunday 8-6
Monday through Thursday 7-8
Friday and Saturday 7-9

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