It's on the site of the former Kendall Cafe, but any signs of that live-music venue are long gone, and the look is urban-rustic-moderne: dark wooden floors, white wood, muted colors.
Sounds like a million other bistros, it's true. At Hungry Mother, the differences are in the details, specifically:
- Water is served in Mason jars, giving a laid-back, down-home touch to an otherwise sophisticated setting.
- The restrooms are papered with cookbook pages: Julia Child's classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one, The Virginia Housewife in the other. Not only does this suggest someone at Hungry Mother has a fundamental passion for homestyle cooking (and a sense of humor), it also turns a trip to the loo into a chance to learn how to pickle walnuts.
(That could be a new euphemism: "'Scuse me a minute--I have to go learn how to pickle walnuts.")
- The whole place smells. Like. Ham. Not something you'd necessarily want in a Glade candle in your living room--you'd be gnawing on the sofa in no time--but when you're in a hammy zone, perusing a hammy menu, and the whole place is perfumed with sweet, smoky hamminess, it's heavenly.
Then The Boy went for the green salad, which featured both red and golden beets, roasted, as well as slices of blood orange. It looked like a plate of jewels, and the mild sweetness of the beets matched well with the sharp citrus and the vinaigrette dressing.
No salad for me, though: I took the pork sausage, which came in its own individual skillet (awww! Bless!) on a bed of black-eyed beans, and was topped with sweet chow-chow, a bright, tangy-fresh complement to the grilled sausage and smoky beans.
My entree was catfish; cornmeal-breaded and served with collards, it's a dish we often make ourselves. Except, of course, that Hungry Mother takes it up a notch, matching it with cauliflower and capers, and dressing the greens with a mustard vinaigrette. Fabulous.
The Boy went all-ham-out, opting for pork shoulder braised in bourbon, sweet and tender, on a bed of creamy grits. Amazingly--I could hardly believe it--he thought the pork rib that came with it was "almost too much meat" (what???); the dish would have been just fine with half the portion. (I'm not sure who he is or what he has done with my husband ...) Of course, he ate it anyway (okay, maybe it really is him).
No room for dessert, which was a shame, because I was intrigued by both the cardamom chocolate pot de crème and the sorghum ice-cream that accompanied the pecan sticky bun.
Next time, Hungry Mother. Next time.