Everyone comes to a place where they are confronted with their own biases, these biases govern your approach, they can dictate your speech, and simply put, place you on alert to how jaded you are toward certain situations. Today I was confronted with my own preconceived ideas and my own prejudices.
Today I visited Aunt Berta’s Kitchen, in New Castle, Delaware and to be honest I naively wanted to see Aunt Berta, I actually wanted to walk in and see a woman with a considerable amount of girth, in an apron, and snapping green beans. Why did I have this thought, well simply stated, that is how I have seen my grandmother many a day when she was home cooking, I didn’t see an Aunt Berta, but I didn’t let it disappoint me.
Oftentimes when you go to a black-owned soul food establishment, you unfortunately have your game face on, you are prepared to encounter a cashier who displays the eagerness of Trump to turn over classified documents, you anticipate what you have a hankering for not be available, and you expect the surroundings much to be desired. Yes, I know this is horrible to write and it can seem to be a stereotype, but it is true, not just in Delaware, but all across the United States, so much so, I am often inclined to believe that black owned restaurants especially the small spots all go to a class before opening, where they collectively learn how to give bad service, but good food. But Aunt Berta’s Kitchen has decided to become an outlier, they have resolved to be known as the unicorn in the small black owned restaurant business, and I cannot tell you how pleased I am to write this.
First up was the fried fish filets to honor that fact that it is Friday, this fish was perfectly breaded, and not with a cornmeal breading which tends to overtake a light fish, but the old-fashioned breading, where you set up the 3 breading stations of bread, flour, and egg, and it was seasoned perfectly, no salt no pepper needed, just a little hot sauce to make it all come together. I was nervous that the fried fish would become soggy by the time I arrived home, but it held up in traffic, and it was fish sweet and absolutely tasty. Second up was the sides, the mac and cheese because you cannot go to a black owned restaurant and not order it and the same goes for the collard greens. I cannot stress to you how good the mac and cheese was, except to write it was completely and unequivocally on point, it was the right amount of cheese, the perfect amount of creaminess, the exact amount of peppery (not hot) just the necessary amount of salt and pepper, and the most tender noodles. Every person who eats mac and cheese unconsciously or consciously always does a quick palate assessment to determine if their homemade mac and cheese is better than what you have ordered, and because I believe in being honest and transparent, compared to my mac and cheese, which I deem very good comes in the ranking as completely underrated and I will never be able to get it to taste like Aunt Berta’s. The pot liquor from the collards was mildly tasty, gently flavored, with tender greens that was the best accompaniment to the creaminess of the mac and cheese.
Third up the potato salad, now I have to write I was more than leery to get the potato salad, because believe or not the mayo vs. no mayo debate is everlasting in the minds of chefs, which depending on what side of the fence you land on, not very delectable.I also want to always honor my mother whom I believe is the potato salad queen and never want to place myself in a position to have to choose someone else’s over hers and I am not going to start today. But Aunt Berta must secretly be friends with my momma, because that salad was everything right in the world, it was creamy, every potato perfectly coated, a little mustard mixed in so that it gave it that tang and also made you believe you were in your momma’s kitchen, they didn’t try to squeeze in some red onions to make it look fancy, they used that at home standby ingredients and it was a side dish that I totally will be picking up on a Sunday after church or an upcoming holiday placing it in a bowl and acting like I made it myself.
Last up was the fried chicken, because I needed something to eat as a leftover the next day. Now if you know me you know that dark meat is my jam, and one bite of that thigh caused a little smirk to cross my face. Chicken should be tender, it should be juicy, the crust should be flavorful, and the piece shouldnt be scrawny, and this chicken checked all the boxes.
Last up was the sweet tea, whom the cashier told me was homemade tea and was guaranteed to make my cheeks pucker, yet when I tasted it, I felt like it was powder tea that they got from the supermarket, but I drank anyway.
Aunt Berta’s Kitchen has a ton on the menu, from fish to ribs, from potato salad to macaroni salad with tuna and without, from gizzards to pig feet. Whenever a soul food joint has pig feet and chitterlings on the menu they are coming through and dropping the mic, I don’t even eat pig feet or chitterlings, but I am respecting the hustle, I am saluting the restaurant who is removing the membrane and doing the tedious work to give folk a down home experience.
Today I had my biases busted down, I had my jadeness turned around, and had my thoughts cleaned up. Today, I encountered a black owned soul food restaurant with good service, excellent food, and worth my repeat service. Thank you Aunt Berta’s Kitchen for being the unicorn you set out to be, you have earned yourself a customer…well done Aunt Berta, well done🍽️