Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010 | 1:29 p.m.
Before it was M&M Chicken and Waffles, it was Glady’s Southern Cooking. Before that, Rob’s Ribs and Abdullah’s Catering. And, well, I can’t remember how many other soul-food joints have cycled through the space at the northeast end of the strip mall at 1100 Martin Luther King Blvd. None of them lasted more than a few years.
The latest to try is a woman by the name of Angie, an Ohio-by-way-of-South Carolina soul-food matriarch, whose two restaurants on Cleveland’s east side have provided that city’s residents a deep-fried fix for a quarter-century. Upon hearing that Angie’s Soul Café had opened here, a friend and Cleveland expat said he’d immediately revamp his schedule to sample the fare. “Good to know that Angie’s is here. We have a million soul-food restaurants in Cleveland. The few times I went there, Angie’s was really good.”
Décor-wise, Angie’s is largely unchanged from its M&M Chicken and Waffles days. The space has always been smallish, with booths comprising most of the seating and a television hanging from the back of the house. What Angie’s has working for it is a larger-than-normal menu full of soul-food standards and featuring a few surprises not normally offered in local southern-style restaurants. Like Great Northern Beans, salmon croquettes, French toast, vegetable omelettes and fried cabbage.
But ultimately, a soul-food place is only as good as its soul food, and Angie’s fits the bill with crisp, tender fried chicken and a generally satisfying, if clunky, Belgian waffle (I prefer flat-iron waffles—more pockets to catch the dollops of butter and streams of syrup). The sides are mostly good, with an appropriately cheesy mac ’n’ cheese, well-spiced red beans and rice that carry a nice bit of heat and baked candied yams that aren’t cloyingly sweet. If I could change one, it’d be the punchless green beans, which screamed out for pepper.
The best thing on the menu might be the catfish. I like to see flecks of pepper on the skin, so I was concerned that the fish would be bland. I was wrong. The lightness of the skin allowed the taste of the meaty fish to shine; no need for hot sauce or any other accouterment.
The quality of Angie’s food matches up to its predecessors (Rob’s Ribs and Abdullah’s Catering has generally been regarded as the best restaurant to occupy the space). As for whether good soul food at inexpensive prices will be enough to keep the doors open, only time will tell.