The Gulf Coast has been waiting a long time for a restaurant like Nana J’s Soulful Kitchen.
Nana J is a 101-year-old Ocean Springs woman who contributed some of the recipes to the menu.
The restaurant is unpretentious, straightforward, reasonably priced and offers a limited menu that is really good.
This is soul food the way it is supposed to be prepared and served. Come in expecting food prepared by a chef who is cooking with passion and considerable skill.
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Chef Sherine Bates has been cooking all her life, and has been looking almost as long for an establishment such as this to offer her home-style cooking.
She teamed up with her sister Karen Newkirk, and the magic began pouring out of the kitchen and the customers began pouring in the door after the restaurant opened in May.
Newkirk takes care of Nana J. Sorry to say Nana J is not in the kitchen anymore, but she inspired the two owners to do what they are doing.
The menu is simple: Pork chops on Wednesday, barbecue ribs or baked chicken on Thursday and fish and shrimp on Friday. Weekday prices vary from $9.99 to $11.
Nana J’s favorite pork chops, chicken wings and fish are $9.99 dishes served on Saturday.
Sunday is as fancy as it gets around here with a $9.99 to $11.99 dinner that will include sliced beef brisket or meatloaf with cornbread dressing and all the other sides.
Pork chops and wings can be had every day, but otherwise this could easily be called a prix fixe menu in the French style. What you can get depends only on the day you visit.
Sixteen side dishes vary daily. Cross your fingers that macaroni and cheese, greens and black-eyed peas are being served the day you visit.
The entrée is always considered the main event, but the beautifully prepared side dishes could easily take the place of any pork chop I ever met (maybe not Nana J’s!), and that is the way soul food is supposed to be.
Soul food is basic, simple stuff that is as good as any cuisine in the world.
In case you have not noticed, I like Nana J’s a lot.
Newkirk and Bates are nailing this culinary adventure like few places ever have on the Coast. Nana J’s has just five tables, so be prepared to wait or get your food to go.
Nana J’s Soulful Kitchen
Where: 6512 Washington Ave., Ocean Springs
When: Wednesday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m.