It was another hot day last week when I found myself in Da Parish for lunch, but the temperature was considerably cooler out on the expansive back patio of The Kitchen Table Cafe. The patio area is actually much larger than the small restaurant storefront itself, and is tucked away behind a fence on St. Claude just across the Arabi line. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d never know it was there. Which is perhaps why I drove right passed it on my way.
Lucky for me though, I did know about it. Despite its unassuming curb presence, the small restaurant has sparked whispers of new good food in St. Bernard since it’s opening a few years ago. Whispers turned to rumblings, and soon I found myself frequently perusing their rotating blackboard specials which they share daily on their social media. A classic wedge salad with creamy blue? I’m in. Fried green tomatoes with remoulade? You bet. Chocolate semi-freddo? Fluffy housemade lemon blueberry cheesecake? I didn’t know I had another language, but they were speaking it.
I sat down with the menu, my mind already made up from the blackboard - today was a wedge salad day. But, I was curious about the rest of the offerings and gave the paper a scan. For mere information purposes.
And this, THIS, is where I always get into trouble. For someone who eats solo as much as I do, I am really quite terrible at it. Cooking for one, ordering for one...it always ends up being for six. In this case though, it really wasn’t my fault. This was just a good menu! There was nothing revolutionary about it, but it seemed exactly right for what it was. Limited, but amply full of tempting options. Eclectic, but logical enough to know that it would all still be done quite well. I really did want that wedge salad, but there was house-made pimento cheese, boudin balls, a great looking burger, a chicken sandwich. And cornbread!
There is only one thing sure in this life, and it’s that if cornbread is on the menu, I am going to order it. It arrived in short order, a large warm wedge peppered with scallion slivers and served with a ramekin of perfectly softened butter. The top had that crispy browned cake crust, and my hopes rose at the prospect of a good cornbread find.
It’s important to note here that I have a strange relationship with cornbread. I will tell you that I love it, but even sitting here now I can only give you one example of what I consider to be truly good cornbread. But I am ever hopeful that I’ll stumble across the Holy Cornbread Grail. The Golden Skillet. The Forbidden Cob. I think I’m done now.
Meanwhile, back at Kitchen Table, this was not it. It was fine, as most cornbreads tend to be. Course crumb, bordering on gritty, but the flavor was good enough to serve as a proper emotional support cornbread while I vexed over the rest of my order. I was busy justifying getting two appetizers when the lunching ladies across the patio received their beautiful salads. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that this place would do a sandwich really well.
I worked through some quick math. One stomach + one appetizer + one emotional support cornbread + one wedge salad + one KTC burger does not add up to anything but bad news. But wait...if I subtract the wedge salad (sigh), divide the appetizer and carry the 1, I can get a chicken sandwich topped with the pimento cheese and still get most of what I want! He returned before I could calculate any more theorems so I hit him with this far less embarrassing order.
That done, I was free to fill my wait time regretting what I ordered, helped along by a neighboring table receiving that KTC Burger. It looked great, even from a socially-distant distance.
This was a great looking basket of food. The fries were clearly fresh cut, and bordered somewhere between steak fries and regular fries. Don’t let that scare you off though, if you like me are not a steak fry fan. These were just heartier sticks of potato, with a bit more girth that called for a longer bath in the frier and therefore a pleasantly crisp exterior. They were tossed with a coarse sprinkle of both salt and pepper and were a lovely supporting act to our chicken sandwich star.
This was an excellent chicken sandwich. First, the pimento cheese. It was too melty for me to try alone, but this was in actuality a blessing. I don’t generally consider pimento cheese as a good topping, but it just worked here. The amount, the meltiness - just right.
The menu stated that the chicken was buttermilk fried, and you know what? I could tell. I’ve never been able to discern buttermilk before, but I swear to you, it made a difference on this clucker. It added the perfect mild undertone to the medium thick crunchy coating. This was not a famed spicy chicken sandwich, mind you, but I’d pick this any day. You may keep your over-hyped and over-spiced hot chickens.
I polished off the whole basket and patted myself on the back for accidentally ordering just right. A man at the next table called over that he was jealously admiring my burger. I told him it was the chicken sandwich, hoping to coach him through his own case of post-order FOMO. My son, it will pass. I don’t know what he did order, but I doubt he left with any regrets.