Every so often I stumble onto a restaurant that makes me say “Wow, that was insanely good!” Aunt Flora’s House of Soul in Silverton is the embodiment of that statement.
Aunt Flora (aka Katrina Mincy) and her gregarious husband, Ron, opened their new restaurant in August on Montgomery Road in a slightly hard-to-find storefront that used to house a Chinese restaurant. It still looks like a Chinese restaurant and is, well, quite frankly in need of a major renovation, but I beg you to ignore the décor. In fact, forget about the surroundings and its imperfections. Instead, let yourself focus solely on the food and the rich heritage of the cuisine. Everything here is homemade by Aunt Flora and not only is it delicious, it’s healthy.
Upon arrival we were treated like family by the namesake owner’s effervescent husband. He obviously takes great pride in his wife and delighted us with the story of Aunt Flora. It really is an interesting back-story, in that the original Aunt Flora traveled the country in the 1940s cooking and demonstrating food for the Quaker Oats Company as the embodiment of Aunt Jemima. Today her great niece uses Aunt Flora’s recipes and techniques to make her down-home, authentic Southern fare. Our Aunt Flora has also become somewhat of a national celebrity, featured in 2007 on The Martha Stewart Show for her exceptional cobbler, which Martha discovered while visiting Findlay Market. (Flora had a stand at Findlay Market until it closed in 2008.)
There is a regular menu, but Aunt Flora likes to mix it up and has daily specials that depend on her mood and what she feels like cooking that day. All dinners are $9.95 and come with two side dishes and either a cornbread muffin or Texas toast.
I ordered the Whiting dinner ($9.95) with mac and cheese, whipped candied yams and cornbread. It was perfection. The whiting had a light cornmeal batter and was expertly seasoned with Aunt Flora‘s “secret soul seasoning.” The secret spices include sweet paprika, cumin, tumeric and other unnamed spices. The mac and cheese had a nice crust that oozed with a gooey blend of five cheeses melted with rich butter and cream. Flora’s philosophy is that butter is OK as long as it’s used with low-fat ingredients like the low-fat cream in her macaroni and cheese. My yams were smooth and slightly sweet, but tempered by cinnamon and other spices. The cornbread muffin was warm and moist with a rich corn taste. I could eat that meal every day and be happy.
My dining companion had the meatloaf, one of the daily specials ($9.95). The generous portion was bursting with flavor and had wonderful onion and green pepper notes. The sauce topping the meatloaf was so complex and unique. Later I learned it was a barbecue sauce and ketchup base with orange marmalade and diced tomatoes. Aunt Flora will add as much sauce as you want in order to moisten it to your taste. Fascinatingly, my companion proclaimed the sweet tea she had with her meal to be the best she’d ever tasted — and she’s a native of the South.
We also tried the chicken wings ($9.95 for dinner or available in many other options). They were not sauced but packed a flavorful punch. Catfish is also on the menu as either a sandwich ($7.99) or dinner.
No soul restaurant is without greens, and Aunt Flora’s collard greens are impressive. All side dishes are available a la carte for $3-$7 depending on container size. I have to admit that I don’t usually enjoy collard greens as they can be bitter and overly salty, but I couldn’t get enough of Aunt Flora’s greens and cabbage mixture. These collard greens are mild and blend perfectly with the sweeter cabbage. The greens are sautéed on the grill with light olive oil that truly enhances the flavor. Surprisingly, there is no ham in the mixture. Aunt Flora said she doesn’t use ham because it’s not healthy.
After such a satisfying meal I normally would not have dessert, but you cannot visit Aunt Flora’s and not try the cobbler. There is at least one sweet cobbler and sometimes a savory cobbler available every day. Peach is the most popular, but she always makes a mixed berry cobber midweek. The cobbler repertoire also includes apple, cherry, blackberry, sweet potato, vegetable or chicken. There are too many sizes available to mention and all are available in sugar-free versions. Again with the healthy!
The blackberry/peach combination cobbler was outstanding. Served warm in a small casserole dish, the cobbler is stuffed with fruit and the crust is buttery, rich and so comforting. Aunt Flora’s does a large carryout business. There’s also mail-order service available for her cobblers; call ahead to find out what flavors are available.
With the holiday season upon us, let Aunt Flora do some of your cooking. Soul food is comforting, but this is also healthy and downright delicious.
Go: 7207 Montgomery Road, Silverton
Hours : Noon-8 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; noon-10 p.m. Friday; 3-10 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
Red Meat Alternatives : Plenty
Accessibility : Fully accessibl e