Some joints you just root for. You walk in whistling, thinking that either this place offers lip-licking tasties or, dang, it’s just another reminder of how cutthroat the family-owned restaurant racket can be. Here today. Gone tomorrow.
Exhibit A: Toni’s Southern Kitchen.
The first problem is the place’s location. Though Toni’s recently relocated from a neglected shopping center on McCart Avenue to a much busier strip mall on Camp Bowie Boulevard West, the joint is squished by a Kroger on one side and a furniture rental store on the other –– and doesn’t have a sign, just a plastic banner stretched across the facade and vinyl decals splayed across the storefront window.
The next problem is the interior. It’s comfortable but pretty sterile, just some tables and chairs and a TV.
The menu, meanwhile, has everything you could ever wish for from a soul-food joint: fried catfish, beef tips and rice, slow-cooked pot roast, fried chicken wings, pork-chop sandwiches, hamburgers. You also have the option of mixing and matching entrées with various combinations of meats to create a super entrée, which at the most costs about $14.
But while the spirit of the South may be in all of Toni’s food, not everything is a home run.
Only a few minutes after my guests and I ordered, our food arrived: a catfish fillet fried in cornmeal batter and a monstrous chicken-fried steak drowning in cream gravy, everything served on cafeteria-style plastic plates flanked by sides in palm-sized plastic bowls.
Of the four sides –– collard greens with turkey, fries, red beans and rice with sausage, and macaroni and cheese –– the beans/rice combo, the greens, and (!) the fries were superb. Though the greens were a little soggy, they were redeemed by chewy bits of smoked bird. And while the beans were probably from the bottom of the pot (my guests and I arrived late on a Monday evening) and, as a result, were also soggy, they had a nice little kick.
A special seasoning (cinnamon, maybe?) was the chief reason that the fries were so good. We asked our waitress for some details, but she wouldn’t say anything –– except that what we thought we were tasting definitely was not cinnamon.
The mac ’n’ cheese wasn’t necessarily horrible, but it just didn’t have any flavor. Plus, the mound of yellow and white looked reheated.
The CFS, on first slice, seemed promising. The breading was crunchy and substantial without being hard. Too bad the meat itself delivered exactly zero beefy notes. If you live down the street and are jonesing for some chicken-fried steak, OK. But the dish is not worth a drive across town.
The catfish fared much better. Boneless and wrapped in a shell of breading that was fluffy but still a little appropriately gritty, the fillet was salty and savory. Dip some of that sucker in the accompanying tartar sauce and dial 911, because it’s to die for.
Toni’s serves dessert, including a delectable 7Up cake, but you may want to pass if you’ve already been enjoying the eatery’s toothachingly sweet iced tea.
Toni’s Southern Kitchen
9116 Camp Bowie West, Ste 100, FW. 817-244-2584. Noon-6pm Sun, 11am-8pm Mon-Fri, noon-8pm Sat. Discover, MasterCard, Visa accepted.
Chicken-fried steak (w/two sides) . $7.99
Fried catfish (w/two sides) …………. $7.99
7Up cake …………………………………… $3.25