Mama J's Kitchen is a small, soul food restaurant in downtown Richmond. There is always a wait and all of the reviews rave about the amazing food and that the best way to have everything is fried.
One of my friends was visiting from Michigan for the weekend, and I wanted to show her an authentic soul food restaurant, so Mama J's was an obvious choice. We came into this knowing we would be leaving with full stomachs and heavy hearts -- heavy with oil, that is. We arrived with some friends around 6:45 p.m. on a Thursday and there was a 45-minute wait. Every seat was full, but the restaurant was not overcrowded. There were people of all ages, and it was a casual, clean and comfortable environment.
We were seated 10 minutes earlier than expected and our waitress was really friendly, helpful and sweet. Our appetizers came pretty quickly after our food was ordered. We ordered the catfish nuggets and an assortment of wings. All of the reviews recommended the catfish nuggets so we decided we had to try them and it was a very good choice. They are small pieces of catfish, about the size of a chicken nugget, that are breaded, fried and served with tartar sauce. They were so tender they practically fell apart in your hands. Before we ordered, we saw the chicken wings coming out of the kitchen and it seemed like everyone was ordering them and they looked fantastic, so we decided to order some. We tried all of the sauces they offer: buffalo, BBQ and their classic Eddy sauce which was a mix between BBQ and buffalo. The Eddy sauce was our favorite by far and I haven't had wings that good ever.
For our main courses we shared the fried trout, crab cake sandwich and country fried steak. The fried trout still had the skin on it, which gave it some delicious flavor, but was a little strange to eat. The crab cake sandwich was tasty but I didn't think it was anything special, and the country fried steak was smothered in mushroom gravy and onions and was probably our favorite entree. We also ordered collard greens, candied yams and mac and cheese as side dishes. I did not think the mac and cheese was very flavorful but it was great with some hot sauce and complimented the other dishes well. The candied yams were too heavily spiced with nutmeg. I wouldn't order them again but I'm glad I tried them. And last but not least, the collard greens: I do not want to know what they put on them to make them so delicious but they were out of this world.
Somehow we saved some room for dessert and ordered the peach cobbler. It came out in a cast iron pot with ice cream on the side and looked unbelievable. We did not think we would be able to finish it but we managed to scarf the whole thing down without a problem.
Mama J's is definitely not the place to go if you are looking to eat light but it is more than a meal -- it's an experience and a delicious one at that.
Lou's curried chicken salad sandwich is pretty good. The bread-to-chicken salad ratio is a bit off but the chicken salad is a winner and would be great served in a wrap or on a bed of lettuce.
Contact contributor Sarah Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org
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