Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Porch: Southern Fare in Wakefield

It's only been open for two weeks but it's already making its mark. The Porch, located on Tuttle Street in Wakefield, took over the location of the short lived Mola Bakery. Since its opening, I've stopped by a couple times for lunch and wanted to provide some preliminary thoughts on this new restaurant. As usual, please remember that this restaurant has only been open for two weeks and, like any newly opened restaurant, still needs some time to work out any initial kinks. The restaurant shows much potential and is a welcome addition to Wakefield's culinary scene.  

It is a small restaurant and you order at the counter and then sit at a table (or takeout). There is an open kitchen where you can see much of the food being prepared, though their smoker appears to be located elsewhere, maybe in the basement. The restaurant is open from Wednesday to Sunday (so is closed on Monday & Tuesday). On Wednesday to Saturday, it is open from 11am to 9pm, and on Sunday, 11am-4pm.

It can seat roughly a dozen or so people

The Menu is listed on a chalkboard behind the counter, and is subject to change. For example, on my second visit, the menu had already changed, adding Large Size Sides at $6. The Menu is relatively small, with four Sandwiches ($7-$9), one Salad ($6) and four Platters ($10-$13). You'll also find six Sides ($3/small, $6/large) and one Dessert ($3). In addition, there are some larger Family Style meals ($26-$28), which are made for four people. The Menu includes a nice variety of Southern basics, from Fried Chicken to Pulled Pork, from Collard Greens to Cole Slaw.

I think starting off small is a good idea, allowing the restaurant to concentrate on those items and ensure they are fresh and delicious. It also allows them to modify the menu based on feedback, to keep what is popular and make changes if something isn't selling well. Everything is made from scratch so there is also plenty of work involved even for a relatively small menu. For example, I asked about why they didn't carry Corn Bread and was told that they had to make an initial decision to make either Biscuits or Corn Bread, and they opted for Biscuits. In the future though, they might add Corn Bread.

On my first visit, I chose the North Carolina Pulled Pork Platter ($12) with a Side of Mashed Potato and the Bag o' Biscuits. I also added a piece of Fried Chicken. To drink, I tried the Sweet Tea ($2), which is sweet iced tea and tastes like many sweet teas I have tasted in the South.

The Pulled Pork is 1/2 pound of smoked shoulder, in a North Carolina style, and is accompanied by some Carolina Vinegar Sauce. They have their own Smoker and the pork is very tender and flavorful, with plenty of meat and very few fatty parts. The vinegar sauce makes for excellent dipping, adding a nice tang to the smoky meat. A winner of a dish and it is available as a sandwich as well.

On my first visit, the boneless Fried Chicken was a little overcooked, just the coating being fried a bit too much. However, the flavor of the coating was still very good, a nice combo of spices, and the chicken itself was very moist and tender, exactly what you want from a good piece of fried chicken. I suspected that they would work out the cooking issue in the near future.

I wasn't impressed with the mashed potatoes but the Bag o' Biscuits certainly made up for that disappointment. You receive three biscuits in a bag with a tub of honey butter. On my first visit, I received biscuits straight from the oven. Hot biscuits with sweet honey butter were just perfect. The biscuits were well made, with that crusty exterior and lighter, fluffier interior. Another winner and highly recommended.

On another visit, I enjoyed The Banty ($8), a Fried Chicken sandwich with pimento cheese, bread & butter pickles, and iceberg lettuce (though I had them omit the lettuce). This time, the chicken was fried much better, a clear improvement in a short time. The pickles were tasty, adding a nice crunch and mild sweetness to this dish, and the pimento added some spice and moistness to the sandwich. I got a side of Mac & Cheese, and received a generous portion of cheesy goodness.

As I've mentioned before, I generally dislike Meatloaf, though there have been a few exceptions. I'd heard some good things about The Porch's Meatloaf so I gave it a try, and I'm so glad that I did. With a nice crusty edge, the meatloaf was dense and moist, flavorful and tasty, accompanied by a spicy ketchup. The chef told me that he adds gelatin to the recipe to ensue it is moist, without the necessity for lots of bread. You can order the Meatloaf as a sandwich or on a platter, and I will certainly order it again. Another winning dish, especially coming from someone who is extremely picky about meatloaf.

For Dessert, they have Chess Pie ($3 a piece/$22 for a whole pie), a Southern specialty that I haven't seen available at too many local restaurants. It is basically a type of custard pie, though cornmeal is commonly added to it. It was rich and tasty, though a dollop of fresh whipped cream might have enhanced the dessert.

Overall, there is much to like about The Porch and with a little more time, it will work out the initial kinks. The owners are personable and seem very open to suggestions. I think their prices are generally reasonable for the quality and quantity of food you receive. The restaurant has plenty of potential and I wish them all the best. I'll continue to dine there and will report back again once more time has passed and the restaurant is in its full groove. I recommend my readers to check it out, to enjoy their dishes, from Pulled Pork to Meatloaf.


Brad Smith said...

Good review! It makes me want to visit The Porch and make my own assessment. I've never liked meatloaf either. Gag reflex just thinking about it. Ha!

Unknown said...

I have already become a regular at The Porch.

I love Jonathan's preparation of the meatloaf. Each slice is put on the grill which gives it an extra depth in flavor. Don't think of this as, "meatloaf."

He smokes the pork shoulder to perfection, and it is the flavor of the pork and the secret rub that come through. Other restaurants toss BBQ sauce on pork and call it "pulled pork." Not here.

The two times I have had the fried chicken, each time -- was the best fried chicken. Actually, I hadn't ever had fried chicken like this. And the mac and cheese -- yup, gotta get it!

I've tried everything except the oysters, because I just don't like oysters. Although I used to say that I didn't like collard greens until I tried Jonathan's.

The biscuits are flaky, and the honey butter on the side is perfect complement.

What I like best about Jonathan's cooking is that he enhances the flavor of the food, rather than smothering it with sauces and over-spicing which is what many of us Yanks have come to know Southern Cooking to be.

Hadn't ever heard of chess pie. I love it!

I have to applaud the limited menu. Do a few things -- perfectly.

So happy that The Porch is here in Wakefield!

Cindy Davis