This past weekend, I flew in and out of Charlotte, although most of the time I was in the Palmetto State. Typically, I do these trip reports in chronological order, but one place was so special, I couldn't wait to write about it. Sunday afternoon, I was driving around Spartanburg looking for a place to eat a nice late lunch. The original plan and the reason I was even in sparkle city was to dine at Wade's Restaurant, famous for their Southern vegetables. Unfortunately, too much time messing around in Columbia cost me as I didn't arrive into town until 3:20PM and Wade's closes at 3:00PM on Sundays. A backup plan was ready and I headed to Ike's Corner Grill, locally known for their burgers. According to a website, Ike's is supposed to be open on Sundays. But when I arrived, they were closed up so tight, they must have thought Travelin Man was coming. Well, I'm no quitter. I punched up the closest restaurants feature of the GPS and drove to Skillet Restaurant. Closed. Next was Sugar 'n Spice Drive-In. Closed. I know the great Beacon Drive-In is closed on Sundays, so that isn't an option. Next was Ricky's Drive-In. Closed. The oddly named Boots and Sonny's Drive-In. Closed. Okay, now I am considering being a quitter after all, because it isn't looking too good. On the last screen of the GPS was a place called PK's Homestyle Cooking. I called and the line was busy. Good enough for me and I was on my way. When I pulled up out front, I found a small, unassuming rectangular building, with a brick front. The signs on the front windows, "Daily Lunch Specials" and "Homemade Desserts", gave me some hope. I already knew by the neighborhood that I would most likely be the only white person eating here. I walked in and was greeted warmly by the waitress, who told me to sit anywhere. In choosing a seat in a restaurant, I look for somewhere there it lots of light, preferably natural light and where my photo taking won't be too obtrusive. But with this place being so small, (four booths and five tables), that really isn't an option. So, I settled on the booth next to the window. PK's reminds me of another soul food restaurant, Niecie's in Kansas City. All the other diners certainly knew each other and were often conversing, usually from table to table and across the room. Besides being a restaurant, this place is also part community center. My waitress brought me a one sided laminated menu and soon after, a sweet tea. The tea is super strong and so sweet, it makes you feel like your teeth are about to fall out. In other words, great tea that is not for the weak-kneed! I should have spent more time looking at the menu, but there was something at the front of the room that was distracting me. More on that later. When she came to get my order, I asked if there is anything they specialize in or are famous for. She replied, "Everything is good".
That's no help. I asked, "How is your fried chicken"? "You'll like it", she replied. Okay, now we are getting somewhere. From here things became more difficult. My waitress had such a thick Southern drawl to my Northern ears, I really struggled with the questions she was asking. White meat or dark meat, I understood. I ordered the dark. But once she started describing the pieces, I was lost. I just nodded my head in approval, figuring I will probably like whatever they bring out. She wanted to know which cornbread I wanted. The second one she said was like grandma's. Not understanding what she had said about the first type, I said the second one. For vegetables, two come with your meal, so I took my usual two favorites, green beans and macaroni & cheese.
Okay, back to that distraction. How about this dessert case?
I walked up and queried what was what and hopefully, I remembered correctly. Top Shelf
: Devil's Food Cake, Pineapple Cake, Cinnamon Nut Cake, Chocolate Nut Pound Cake Middle Shelf
: Coconut Cake, Iced Lemon Pound Cake, Double Chocolate Cake Bottom Shelf
: Strawberry Cake, Cupcakes, Turtle Brownies
The cakes looked spectacular and I noticed that almost all of the diners here were finishing their meals with dessert. There was a sign on the wall which mentions Red Velvet Cake, but apparently they were out. Okay, I guess they can be forgiven for this.
The first food to arrive at my table was the vegetables. The green beans
were cooked soft and lay in a deep pool of pork juice, which gave them a strong piggy flavor. There was no meat in the beans, though. The very cheesy macaroni and cheese
was wonderful. I loved the combination of the soft noodles and the crusty top layer of this dish. Since I suspected they would have a way with vegetables here, I had earlier ordered an additional side, the squash.
The squash itself was baby food soft and was laced with onions, which gave it a faint sweet taste. I have never had squash like this before.
Unfortunately, the bland cornbread
was a disappointment. Keeping the menu at my table to look at after I placed my order, I noticed the other version was a sweet cornbread. No doubt, I would have much preferred this version. What I was served was still hot, fresh and crumbly and maybe a true Southerner or bread lover would have enjoyed it more.
While I was eating my sides, an older woman came out of the kitchen and sat behind the short counter, by the register. From the photo on the wall, I could tell that she was the owner. One by one, she called out across the room to all the tables, asking if everything was okay. When she got to me, she asked if I wanted some cha cha. Now, the only cha cha I know is a dance and it is safe to assume that isn't what she meant. So, with a confused tone, I replied, "I don't know what cha cha is". Well, this broke the whole place up and most of the other diners turned around to see the dumb Yankee. Still sitting at the front, she told me it was like a relish and she would have my waitress bring me some.
Not knowing what to do with the cha cha,
I asked. This was also amusing to them and the other diners started telling me what to put cha cha on. I heard greens, turnips and cabbage and others I didn't catch. Not having any of those things currently on my table, I asked my waitress if I should try it on my green beans. She gave me the Are You Serious? look and said, "You can do whatever you want with it" and walked away. I'll take that as a no. So, I ate the cha cha by itself. As you can see, there is green tomato, corn, beans and peppers in there. The shocking thing was how hot it was. It packed a considerable punch. It is easy to see how this could jump start some boring vegetables, but the ones here at PK's
didn't need any help.
At this point, I still didn't have my chicken. Figuring this meant that it is cooked to order and not just sitting around, waiting for someone to order it, I didn't mind at all. They did bring me out a couple of wings
to tide me over. The wings had a nice, heavy coating and were well done, just how I like them. Delicious!
Finally, my chicken arrived. She told me they ran out of some pieces (at least that is what I think she said!), apologized and gave me three legs instead.
These legs had a thick, luscious crunchy crust that reminded me of what I ate earlier in the year at the Bon Ton Mini Mart
in Kentucky. The inside meat was plenty tender, but could have been juicier. Maybe that is just the nature of leg meat. I really would have loved to have tried a thigh or even a breast to see how juicy they are. The feeling here is that they are probably something special.
Enough screwing around, let's eat some cake! Having plenty of time to mull over this monumental decision, I went with a slice of the Devil's Food Cake to eat there and a piece of the strawberry cake boxed up to go. The Devil's Food Cake
was supremely chocolately and moist, with light, sweet icing. The pretty pink strawberry cake
(which I ate at the Charlotte airport) was even better, if you can believe it.
My bill? Just under $14.00! While paying, I asked the owner, who was quite happy to pose for a photo,
for a business card or a take-out menu. They didn't have either, so she gave me one of their regular menus. Here is a hand written sign
on the wall with more food items, plus their specials of the day.
I enjoyed PK's Homestyle Cooking
so much, I am already planning my return trip. Next time, I am going to get the fried chicken again. Or maybe the pork chop sandwich. Or maybe the perch..... PK's Homestyle Cooking 1011 Union Street Spartanburg, SC 864-515-0873 Hours M-F 11:00AM - 8:00PM Closed Saturdays Sundays 11:00AM - 5:30PM Open 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th Sundays of each month. Closed on 4th Sundays!
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