Soul Food Hospitality
Great eating, great folks at Brown’s Café
Brown's is the kind of eatery where not only the servers are personable, but the patrons get in on the amicable manner too. Located on a bustling stretch of West Fond du Lac Avenue, it's a haven where locals often already familiar with one another drop in and commiserate on the events of the day over the daily soul food specials and sandwiches. But the occasional younger patron stopping by to work intently on his or her laptop over a meal can feel comfortable, too. On an old-style tube TV above the booths in the corner, BET sitcom reruns or local newscasts play silently while current adult R&B and oldies from WJMR 98.3 FM softly penetrate the air steeped with the scents of Southern African American cooking.
Yes, there's a menu one can page through, featuring sandwiches, dinners and breakfast (it's one of the few places in the city serving that most Southern of morning staples, corn hominy grits). But the greatest variety comes from the specials on the marker board behind the counter. Most full dinners featuring meat go for just under $10, among them ham hocks, fried chicken and corned beef with cabbage. If the last selection seems more associated with Ireland, use of cured meats such as ham and bacon in soulful black cooking makes it a natural fit upon further consideration.
A hocks dinner was a new experience for me, but one for which I received assistance on how to cut through the meat’s thick skin to get to the tasty flecks of salty, baked pork underneath. I'd like to get back there sometime when chitterlings are on the board. A plate of veggie sides made for a less work-intensive but at least equally tasty meal. It includes red beans and rice, pinto beans, sweet potatoes and boiled cabbage served with a freshly-fried cornbread pancake a touch too crumbly for sopping but still scrumptious. Unlike some of its competitors, Brown's offers a choice of cornbread as well as white and whole wheat bread. And peeking at another patron's plate revealed a sizable hamburger on a sesame seed bun sitting beside a pile of crinkly French fries that looked awfully inviting as well.
Decor here doesn't rival more haute Milwaukee soul food eateries such as Ja'Stacy and Sir Desmond's, but the down-home feeling at Brown’s and the attentive service certainly make up for it.
Brown's Hospitality Café
3528 W. Fond du Lac Ave.
Handicapped access: yes