The flu almost killed me. I’ve had both strains of it in less than a month, and I feel like I just survived life as a 1917 wartime hostage. My diet consisted of mostly broth, crackers, and Canada Dry. My daily activity was limited to me milling between my couch and bed, stopping every few minutes to try and remember where I was going. ABC’s The Bachelor was about the most challenging stimulant my brain could handle. I blame my children –– well, for a lot of things. They did this to me. They’re the ones always hanging out with other li’l germ magnets, and now I’m the beneficiary of their viral largesse.
Whenever I feel sick, sad, or any emotion at all, I want comfort. I need the soothing taste of Nana’s cooking –– and way too much of it. I’m down to one grandmother, and she’s all the way in London. The next best thing, I’ve recently discovered, is Nana’s Kitchen (7403 John T White Rd, 817-653-7080). Don’t confuse the Eastside soul food standout for a generic feedbag that reheats frozen garbage. The food here is special and worth the trip outside of your bubble, especially if you’re of the ilk trying to keep up with every new restaurant opening on South Main, West Magnolia Avenue, West 7th, or the Shops at Clearfork.
On the strip-mall eatery’s door, there’s a life-size picture of owner Toshia Ramsey, donned in a stately-looking chef’s coat, holding both halves of a stuffed pineapple. As you walk in, you’re greeted by the same image festooned on the walk-up counter.
There are two rooms on two levels inside. The first houses the buffet, the aforementioned counter, and a few tables. The other looks like a banquet room that’s ready for a wedding reception, with black table cloths, sheer white streamers cascading from the ceiling, full bouquets of brightly colored flowers atop each table, and a hilariously thin piece of drywall that separates the kitchen from the lower-level dining room. Diners can hear every chop and whispered conversation between cooks.
Smothered pork chops are my measuring stick for a soul food joint, and Nana’s version ($14.99 for two chops) was better than any I’ve had this side of Buttons. Two amply portioned chops sat on a bed of gravy-slathered white rice. The sauce on the pork –– a slurry of onions, bell peppers, and pan drippin’s –– was nuanced and well seasoned. The chops themselves were lightly battered and fork tender (even for the plastic utensils my guest and I were given). A golf ball-sized nub of ham hock floated amid the mass of piquant greens that occupied one corner of the Styrofoam box that housed my recent weekday lunch. The other corner was filled with cheesy, peppery mashed potatoes, also dripping in the house gravy.
Each bite was a new experience, as salty, spicy, creamy, and unctuous flavors assailed my palate like a soul food glitter gun.
My guest’s smothered chicken ($14.99 for two pieces) hit a lot of the same notes. His black-eyed peas were exquisite in both texture and aroma and, like the greens, finished with a surprising kick. Not to be out-kicked, his cabbage was specked with slivers of jalapeño. A fresh, hot piece of cornbread was served with each meal.
I can’t say Nana’s cured me of my health malaise, but it definitely took my mind off it for a short time. I even forgot to resent my children for a whole hour.