Okra + Greens
Greens always have an undercurrent of bitterness—that’s what makes them interesting. The yummy fresh collards at Dot’s Place (presently in temporary quarters and serving to-go only) balance the bitterness with salt. The humble spot’s stewed okra with juicy tomatoes gives that much-maligned vegetable a good name; the seasoning is Southern sweet, and there’s no hint of okra’s dreaded slime.
Go early or late or you’ll stand in line at South Dallas Café, where tables and booths fill quickly with folks who love good soul food staples such as fresh collards; the roughly cut leaves are well cleaned and seasoned with just a trace of sugar. And don’t miss the fresh stewed okra: With chunks of tomato and onion, it’s all that okra aspires to be—and slime-free to boot. The devoted customers at Casa Linda Cafeteria, where the servers seem to know everybody’s name, love the vast selection of fresh vegetables. It’s one of the few spots that carry both collard and turnip greens, which are cooked with scant seasoning or added fat to complicate matters. Not asking for a big ol’ mess of fresh turnip greens would be an insult to the kindly ladies spooning up plate lunches on the crowded serving line at Vern’s Place. A dash of pepper and a pinch of sugar make these greens memorable.
A wall of windows lets light spill onto the tightly spaced tables inside Drew’s Place, a small, cheery soul food cafe in the Como neighborhood; if you order the reliable, judiciously seasoned chopped collard greens, make sure you soak up the pot likker with some cornbread.
The peppery mustard greens at Yo Mama’s Soul Food, a long, narrow strip-center storefront with an aquarium up front, are studded with ample chunks of bacon, tomato, and onion, all swimming in a profoundly earthy pot likker. Located next to a farmers’ market, the no-frills Triple A serves vegetables so fresh off the truck that any seasoning besides salt is superfluous. In fact, spices might undercut the clean but complex bitterness of the very fine mustard greens. Soul on the Bayeaux, which claims to serve “Louisiana soul food” and is decorated with Mardi Gras masks and beads, serves leafy collard greens. Pearl’s Soul Food Café, a converted coffee shop with red-tile floors and black Naugahyde booths, stews its okra with corn and tomato, adding pepper and aromatic spices to lend Jamaican flair.
The seconds-please collard greens are one reason to go to Anzley’s Family Dining. While most restaurants are reducing their options to commercial frozen french fries and fried okra, order-at-the-counter Anzley’s serves sixteen hot or cold fresh vegetables and salads in its large dining room, filled with accommodating booths. The boiled cabbage and the broccoli-and-rice casserole have also been especially good.
Yes, indeed—the tender, admirably unbitter collard greens at Mr. and Mrs. G’s, an agreeable little cafeteria-style cafe done up in cream with touches of pink, will restore your faith in this often-mistreated Southern staple.