looking for southern food in the south bay
i can't believe we have everything here, but i can't seem to find a good place to get chicken and dumplings, collards, cornbread, etc. etc. around here. i'm guessing it's because they're typically hole-in-the-wall type places. so, i'm counting on the combined knowledge of all you fine folks to help me out. any advice appreciated!
oh, and i don't mind traveling, if necessary.
I lived in the Bay Area for five years (native of the South) and could not find ONE PLACE that did Southern food justice (or any place that would stay in business if it were in the South). It's so sad, because all my Bay Area friends had this totally wrong impression about the South as a place that lacks culinary merit, when it fact it's simply because they've never experienced real Southern food. It got so bad that one summer day, I organized a Southern cookout for all my friends using traditional recipes and techniques. They said it was some of the best tasting food they've ever had. As far as I know, none of them have returned to Uncle Franks after that.
Another peeve of mine: people in the Bay Area seem to think that Southern and soul food are one and the same. Not true. Soul food is a limited subset of Southern comprising just those recipes and techniques created by African Americans. There can be some overlap, but there's a lot of exclusivity if you were to "Venn diagram" the two. Second, Texas cuisine is not Southern. It's Texas cuisine. Third, cajun cuisine is not Southern. It's cajun. Fourth, a "barbeque" does not mean "cooking something on the grill." That's called "grilling." Barbequeing something implies a particular technique dealing with smoke and the type of sauce. When you grill a hamburger outside with a group of friends, you're not having a barbeque. The only way you can have a "barbeque" is if you were to head out with friends to chop down some hickory trees, smoke the pig in a pit over coals with them for nine hours, mix up some sauce with molasses or ketchup or vinegar, depending on your regionality, and pull the pork thereafter. Fifth, Southern restaurants don't have to serve bbq. In fact, in the actual South, the dumplins/collards/yams/buttermilk mashed potatoes/green beans/okra/fried chicken/country ham/corn/field peas/lima beans is usually served at different restaurants from pulled pork/brunswick stew/ribs. It's because the two involve such time-intensive techniques in their own right that it's usually a good bet that the restaurant is very disingenuous if they have both on the menu.
I'm back in the South right now but will be moving back to the Bay Area soon, this time permanently. Mark my words, if the Bay Area doesn't have a good southern restaurant 10 years from now, I'll open one up myself (Southern, not Texan or Cajun or soul or bbq).
Uncle Frank's has been the best southern food I've currently found in the area. My relatives from the south say it's alright, but sadly, I haven't found better around here.
I've gone to Poor House Bistro in San Jose, but it seems to have been altered for a more Californian palate.
Uncle Frank's BBQ
2135 Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View, CA 94043
Poor House Bistro
91 S Autumn St, San Jose, CA 95110
Try looking these up and see if they fit your bill:
The Little Biscuit House, San Mateo. It's right off El Camino, easy to find. They're well documented on yelp but I couldn't find a site for them.
Micha's in San Carlos - http://www.michasbbq.com/
I regretfully must submit that I had the fattiest ribs, strangest off-putting coleslaw, and most intestine-knotting bbq sauce of my life at Uncle Frank's. Uncle Frank was sitting in a corner looking as though he felt the same way (he had a paperback - I think he was making himself read The Inferno). I love salt, heat, and meat, but this had me canceling dinner and curling up (fetal) with a good book of my own (Purgatorio).