No Little Feat, Cooking Real Southern Food – By Jason Ledford (Bon Air Buzz featured contributor)
Posted by Jason Ledford
Let’s talk about Southern food. There are quite a few restaurants doing good things with Southern food in Richmond. It does make sense when you consider we were the capital of the South at one point. Even considering this I had an interesting experience when I worked in restaurants during the early 90’s.
I had a person call up the establishment I was bartending at and ask for “real” southern fried chicken, made from scratch. I couldn’t think of a place. I was stumped. I hate to admit it. Here I am, a life long resident of the South and I can’t think of one place that makes real fried chicken. Now, I can. Last week I visited The Dixie Chicken on Westover Hills Boulevard. Finally I’ve found a place that does real southern fried chicken from scratch.
Let’s talk about the place so you can find this party of hot oil, pork, and “Grandma style” food love.
The Dixie Chicken is located at 1203 Westover Hills Boulevard. It’s beside the Valero and shares half the building with a laundry. The building is bright yellow so should be hard to miss. Currently they are configured for carry out service with a counter and white washed walls inside. They have a few chairs for waiting customers but most of the interior is devoted to cooking and prep. You won’t be disappointed when you walk in as right away you’re greeted with a friendly smile and a hello.
The menu is full of Southern delicacies besides the fried chicken such as pork belly sandwich, bbq, collard greens, deviled eggs, cole slaw, mac and cheese, and hoppin’ john. The hoppin’ john was declared authentic by my wife, a native of Savannah, Georgia. I wasn’t going to argue as I was too busy using my mouth for eating. Every meal is served with a fresh buttermilk biscuit. The prices are impossible to beat with dinners, a typical meat and two sides, between $5 and $6. The larger family style meals that are intended for more than one person are between $10 and $15. They have bbq on the menu but are still in the start up phases so as for now it’s pulled pork only. I was told they plan to add more smoked meats to the menu at a later date.
On my second visit I called in an order of 3 dinners(!) for my wife and I. I arrived and had a nice chat while picking up this hefty portion of food for the both of us. What can I say? I had raved about the food all day and we couldn’t make a decision on what we wanted. The prices are so reasonable we just ordered everything we hadn’t tried and planned for leftovers. From that trip I can saw the pork belly sandwich is much better than I expected. I thought I would get a roll with bacon on it. What I received was a home baked roll with thick slices of pork belly mixed with spiced onions and a homemade spread. It was glorious to someone like me who disregards health warnings. I see those warnings as a promise of a long life of tasteless and boring food. My wife tried the bbq sandwich and enjoyed it’s surprisingly smokey flavor and another homemade roll. She ordered the mac and cheese and the already mentioned hoppin’ john. The hoppin’ john followed the example set by the collard greens by coming with pork already added. It was an excellent and welcome addition. The mac and cheese was cooked casserole style and had a coating of baked bread crumbs across the top. The top layer was crispy while getting softer the closer you get to the bottom of your slice.
Now I’m going to talk about the deviled eggs. They deserve their own paragraph. I’ll say this much. I know deviled eggs. I’ve been eating them all my life. All kinds. From the typical church social deviled eggs to the already made, unable to determine their age, style served at gas stations across the South. The deviled eggs at The Dixie Chicken are a revelation. My more worldly food companion commented that they must be made with a fork because the yolk filling couldn’t have been squeezed through a pastry bag. Myself, I just know they’re damned good. The filling is very light and has a strong taste of egg yolk, sweet pickle, and paprika. The poor white just sitting there as way to deliver this glorious mixture to your taste buds. You’ll get two as a side order but you won’t want to share. I asked my wife to share but the quick cut of her eyes after the question was answer enough. A smart man picks his battles with close relatives and people with ready access to knives or firearms. If those two attributes are combined it’s best just to surrender straight away.