For those who are familiar with my eating habits, they'd tell you something along the lines of, "For someone so tiny, she sure can eat." I can't deny it-- there's a special place in my heart (and tummy) for good food. Soul Food Sunday at Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe is no exception.
Located in Seminole Heights, just off of Nebraska Avenue, Ella's is an inconspicuous, two-story building that appears more like a home than a restaurant. The restaurant opens at 11 a.m., but thanks to a tip from the hostess the evening prior (note: they don't take reservations on Soul Food Sunday, but do call-ahead seating beginning at 12:45 p.m.), I got there at 10:30 with my girlfriend and snagged a spot in the front of the line before it began to wrap around the building.
Ella's has an eclectic atmosphere, with works from various artists adorning the walls. There is plenty of staff rotating around the tables ensuring that drinks are always full and patrons are satisfied with their food and service.
As we browsed through the Soul Food Sunday menu, our server brought us a couple of slices of fresh watermelon, in-season and sugary-sweet. She immediately asked if we were interested in any of their specialty cocktails-- while my friend declined, I ordered the Bloody Ella, a Bloody Mary made with infused ancho vodka, rimmed with a BBQ rub and garnished with a hickory-smoked rib.
The drink had the perfect blend of spices to give it the right amount of kick without going overboard. Without a doubt, the icing on the cake was the rib-- it was so tender and full of flavor. And it wasn't a scrawny slice of rib, either.
We ended up ordering and sharing two entrees and a side: the classic fried chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, and shrimp and grits. The chicken and waffles entree was almost large enough to feed two people alone, with two drumsticks and a thigh, a large waffle and a single deviled egg, served with sides of bourbon maple gravy and syrup.
The chicken was perfectly seasoned, battered and fried, and paired perfectly with the gravy, which added just the right amount of flavor. I did without the syrup-- the fluffy Belgian waffle tasted amazing on its own.
The biscuits and gravy were a pleasant surprise. Very much different from the typical Southern-style entree, this dish paired country and chorizo sausage in a slightly spicy gravy, which was poured over two thick, hearty biscuits and topped with shredded white cheddar cheese.
And last, but not least-- the shrimp and grits. If I ever dine at a restaurant that serves shrimp and grits, it's a given that I'm going to order it. It's also a given that my expectations of said shrimp and grits will be on the lower side, since I've been disappointed on one too many occasions.
The shrimp and grits at Ella's is, to say the least, on-point. The shrimp was grilled to perfection, not undercooked and not overdone, with the perfect chargrilled flavor. Paired with the rich consistency of the grits, this was by far my favorite part of our meal.
If you're looking to treat your palate to a menu full of flavor, Soul Food Sunday at Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe is the way to go. Great service, amazing entrees and a community vibe-- what could be better?