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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mr. Perkins’ Home Cooking

Southern soul food in Milwaukee

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Milwaukee has remarkably few soul food restaurants, which is surprising since Southern home cooking is so flavorful and enjoyable. One such restaurant that has passed the test of time in our city, however, is Mr. Perkins’ Family Restaurant, a small, modest diner that is open for breakfast and lunch.

Along with a counter, there are about 10 tables. The place always seems busy, with lots of regulars, and many customers come for carryout meals.

The menu consists of hearty fare featuring plenty of pork, catfish and chicken. Daily specials might be smothered pork chops, chitterlings or turkey legs. Servings are ample and every entrée includes two side items from a list that is as long as the menu.

Fried chicken, instantly associated with soul food, is the most popular item here. The four jumbo-sized wings ($8.50) are so large that the side items arrive on a separate plate. The chicken, with a thin Southern batter, is some of the best to be found locally. The catfish fillet ($10.95) is actually a pair of large-sized pieces. When properly prepared, catfish is as delicate as lake perch. This version has a light cornmeal batter and is cooked to perfection. Smothered pork chops ($9.25) are only an occasional daily special. This pair of large chops is covered with rich, gently seasoned gravy. It’s too bad this option isn’t more widely available, as it presents a refreshing alternative to the many fried dishes.

Once you settle on an entrée, the next move is to choose your side dishes. Some items, like the greens, will change from day to day. Others, such as fried green tomatoes, are available seasonally. Still other options, like okra, always seem to be available.

Boiled okra has a reputation for being slimy in texture, but when it’s coated in batter and fried it is entirely different and has a fresh, springtime vegetable flavor. Turnip greens are prepared without any smoked pork. Spice these up with a dash of hot sauce. Ditto for the black-eyed peas. The mac & cheese has good flavor and comes in a large serving. Pass on the mashed potatoes, one of the few items here that appear to come from a box. A vegetarian plate is offered, though it is simply a choice of three of the side dishes.

No alcohol is served since this is a family restaurant, but there is a selection of soft drinks and sweet iced tea. The owner, Willie Perkins Jr., passed away at the beginning of this year, but the restaurant’s tradition of good food and friendly service continues. Be sure to save room for a piece of sweet potato pie.n

Mr. Perkins’ Family Restaurant

2001 W. Atkinson Ave.

414-447-6660

$

No Credit Cards

Smoke-Free