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Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013

Soul Food Sunday

Terri Lynn’s Express offers Southern cuisine in supper-club setting

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The "OPEN" sign wasn't lit up yet. A woman in the crowd gathering in the little strip-mall parking lot was bold enough to broach the lobby, seeing if she could walk in before the 1 p.m. opening time listed in the window. Not long after the orange neon was glowing to indicate all could enter, two thirds of this restaurant’s tables were occupied.

Terri Lynn's Express has what every restaurant wants: a dedicated following.

Or so it appears on Soul Food Sunday. Every first day of the week a menu of burgers, hot sandwiches, chicken wings, and fish and pork chop dinners gives way to a selection of entrées and sides representing the antebellum tradition of African American Southern cuisine. And cuisine may be a most apt descriptor for what's served at Terri Lynn's, given the spacious, dimly lit dining space with a ’70s supper-club ambiance. This atmosphere and the absence of such less universally delectable items (such as chitterlings and ox tails) makes Terri Lynn's soul food selection more welcoming to diners new to the experience of soulful eating.

A recent Sunday out with a friend and his two sons afforded me the opportunity to try several items from Terry Lynn’s laminated maroon Sunday menu. Chicken is offered in numerous ways. One of the boys remarked that the crispy coating on his fried chicken was of a finer texture than the globular covering at most fast-food joints and was his favorite part of his entrée. His dad's smothered bird was of the fried variety topped liberally with gravy. My baked chicken breast tasted deliciously fresh and free of saline injection and other enhancements.

Likely unique to Milwaukee’s soul food scene is the beef brisket. With generous slabs of the meat acting as sops for the gravy around them, they're worth trying; my companion said his portion melted in his mouth. Smothered pork chop is a holdover from Terri Lynn's non-Sunday offerings and comes thickly cut, overflowing with gravy distinguished by bits of green bell pepper. The side of corn bread came with dressing accentuated with the same colorful bits and soft grains that perfectly complemented the chop's juiciness. A small cup of cranberry jelly accented his plate.

Veggies and starches also succeed here. The fried cabbage has a sweet lilt to it and the greens—probably a mix of collard and mustard varieties—have a pleasantly pungent kick. The sweet potatoes are firm and flavorful without marshmallow or syrup sweetening. Both mashed potatoes (of which a garlic type is offered during the week) and rice are infused with just enough butter or gravy to make them pleasurably moist without being soupy.

A turkey leg or a heaping portion of fried catfish with two sides can also be had for $12.99. Peach cobbler was the only option on the day of our visit, but the menu gives the impression that more than one sweet ending may be available some Sundays.          

 

Terri Lynn's Express

10742 W. Hampton Ave.

414-464-1111

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