Big Mama's Kitchen
This one almost didn't happen. First, they are not open in the evening (they close at 2 during the week) so I had to work out going here for lunch. Second, I almost couldn't find it. When the GPS says I am there, I am in a neighborhood and don't see any sign of a restaurant. Having watched a couple of shows now, I know this can happen. Recently I watched an episode where the restaurant didn't even have a sign.
On the other side of the street from where the GPS says it will be, there is a campus of some sort. It looks like an abandoned school surrounded by a chain link fence. As it turns out, Big Mama's is in there.
You have to find the entrance way back here. It isn't well marked, see that yellow sign? That is the entrance. The whole time I am walking up I am thinking this has to be wrong.
This hearse parked out front didn't help... with either the part where I thought I might be in the wrong place or the part where I am going to go inside and eat at a place with a hearse parked out front.
Big Mama's dining room feels like a school cafeteria. You don't walk through a line to get your food but the room has that institutional feel. I am seated by a teenage hostess at a small table next to the specials board. There are a few other people here but it is definitely not crowded for a lunch hour.
While I review my choices and wait for my server, 3 young men are seated at the next table. They begin a serious debate over having the Salisbury Steak Special or something else. Based on their conversation, I don't think they have eaten here before either.
I am leaning towards Big Mama's Smothered Chicken (3rd under Meals). D3 featured the Afro Burger (first under Sandwiches) and this is what the boys at the next table are conflicted over - Afro Burger or the special?
I go with my gut - so to speak.
This wasn't what I expected. The "gravy" is this yellowish liquid when I thought it would be cream gravy (a mistake most southerners would make I think). Also, the chicken isn't boneless. The gravy prevents picking it up or eating it with your fingers and the bones make it impossible to cut. I eat part of the thigh (I prefer dark meat) by tearing it.
Sweet potato ice cream is one of their advertised specialties so I thought the sweet potato casserole would be a good bet. In my world, sweet potato casserole can carry a whole meal. I convinced my daughter to cater her wedding through Sticky Fingers in Augusta, Georgia based solely on their sweet potato casserole. This recipe falls well short of Sticky Fingers. It is okay, but just okay. I don't really like the gravy on the chicken and the okra is as expected. The cornbread is a little dry.
The guys at the next table have a new dilemma. Having gone with the special they are conflicted that none of them tried the Afro Burger. They discuss whether it is suitable for reheating with the waitress - maybe they will get one to go? Finally, they decide yes, one to go. The one closest to me makes the decision and as the waitress leaves, we make eye contact.
"Good choice," I say, "you obviously wanted to try it." He agrees and asks if I have been here before. I explain I am from the Dallas area, here on business. They live here but haven't eaten here and, like me, learned about it from the show. "Have you been to California Taco?" he asks. I tell him no but that it is on my potential list. "If you go tomorrow, we will probably see you there." The Afro Burger arrives and it turns out reheating won't be an issue. They split it 3 ways immediately.
Verdict: I wouldn't go here again. The odd location and difficult hours are not offset by the food and I found it somewhat pricy for the quality. I am pretty sure I can also safely add this to the list of "Places My Mom Wouldn't Go".
The next day at my customer's office, it becomes clear we will finish a little earlier than expected. There are some things we need from other people that aren't complete so we work a little past lunch to finish and call it a day. I ask if the lady I am working with wants to join me in checking out CA Taco. She has never been there and agrees to go.
Much easier to find. This restaurant sits in a corner, is well marked and bright red. We are lucky and find parking directly across the street.
There is a pretty long line where we wait to place our order. There is some confusion on our part since we don't know what the difference is between a CA Taco and a regular taco. When it is our turn to order, we learn that CA Tacos have a soft pita-bread like shell. (It isn't exactly like pita bread, that is just the closest thing I can think of. I don't remember what the guy at the counter said.)
I decide I can't go to California Taco and NOT get the California Taco so I order the CA Fish Taco (grilled but they also offer fried), rice and a side of guacamole.
While I wait on my companion to order, I check out this mixer behind the counter. It is almost as tall as the guy working the register.
The taco and the rice are really good. One taco is plenty, it is big and filling. The guacamole is so spicy I take one bite and know immediately I can't eat it. I have never tolerated spicy food well and I am sensitive to jalapenos (I get a migraine).
If you were wondering, I didn't see the 3 guys from Big Mama's or didn't recognize them if they were there.
Verdict: I would eat here again. Easy to find, price was reasonable and the taco was really good. I would skip the guac next time but if you are in the area and like it spicy, go for it.