by David Cecelski
I stopped at an elegant little soul food cafe in a small town in the southeastern part of the state today—the West End Grill in Kenansville. It’s old-fashioned country food. They serve big plates of fried catfish, fried pork chops, chitterlings, chicken (baked, fried, and wings), barbecued ribs, and down home, eastern NC-style barbecue. It’s been one of my favorite country cooking places for a long time.
You can get a lunch plate there with a meat, two vegetables, hushpuppies, and sweet tea for $7.00. The vegetables today included fried okra, cabbage, butterbeans, dark rice, and 5 or 6 others. You can also get homemade pork skins on the side. I got the baked chicken, cabbage, and rice and they were all delicious: spicy and full of flavor.
I find the cafe just a pleasant, restful place, too– and stylish. There are maybe a dozen, very comfortable booths and a little counter with 3 or 4 chrome stools. The place is full of art posters and oil paintings, too—they feature iconic R&B and hip-hop artists, NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt, and an African-American farmwoman protecting her chickens with a shotgun.
I had been getting our farmhouse ready for hurricane Irene all morning and I was tired when I got to the West End Grill, but I felt renewed and restored when I left and got back on the road.
The West End Grill is at 156 Mallard Street (US 24/50) in Kenansville, the seat of Duplin County. It’s only about 8 miles off I-40 if you’re traveling between Raleigh and Wilmington. Be sure to call ahead to find out when they’re frying fresh spots. You can reach them at (252) 296-0148 .