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Southern Express chugs along in Old Louisville with affordable, delicious soul food.
Either more and more local establishments offering homestyle cooking keep popping up, or perhaps I’m just now noticing. My most recent trip into Southern fare came by way of Southern Express Soul Food on Oak Street, and it was one of the tastiest and most affordable I’ve experienced.
The business has been around four years or so, previously having a carry-out-only location at 2300 W. Market St. The 418 W. Oak St. location has a handful of tables, but everything is served in to-go Styrofoam containers. And according to online reviews, it’s a pretty simple concept of you build your own meal at $1 per item. I didn’t bother to ask about that when I was there, instead choosing to simply order two separate meals.
Imagine my surprise when I checked out and was told my entire order — two pieces of fried whiting, two pieces of fried chicken and four sides — was just $8. Yep, eight bucks. I thought there must be a mistake, but there was not.
Cooked cabbage:I’m not normally a cabbage guy, but at Southern Express, they cook whatever they cook on any given day, and I wasn’t in the mood for yams, so I got the cabbage. I didn’t expect to like it much, but I loved it. It was flavorful and spicy, with flecks of red peppers as well as black pepper, perfectly cooked and delicious. After the fact, I guessed that the yams were probably pretty darn good, too.
Rice and gravy:Yes, it was just simple white race smothered in creamy gravy, but it was nevertheless tasty and satisfying. Rice and gravy is a classic Cajun dish, but this was only mildly spiced and seemed to have a chicken base. Indeed it was much like giblet gravy. Who can ever get enough giblet gravy?
Macaroni and cheese:The mac and cheese at Southern Express is a bit deceptive. My first bite wasn’t terribly cheesy, and I got a sense the light pasta flavor was going to be the focus, but my second bite featured a big orange clump of cheese that ended up partially sticking to my fork. Yep, that’s real cheese. And as I dug in for more bites, the cheese asserted itself. For my palate, it could have used a tad more pepper, but it was tender and delicious.
Pork roast:Yes, I got pork roast as a side dish. Tender roast that apparently was cooked for a month is the base here, but there are also hand-cut vegetables like potatoes, carrots and green peppers, and the flavors stand out with each bite. What I’m saying is this stew doesn’t all just taste like a pork gravy — all the ingredients have a presence. I could eat a bucket of this.
Fried chicken:I offhandedly asked for all white meat, only to be told by the friendly server they had only legs and thighs. This was a surprise to me, because the thigh I had glanced at was so huge, it looked like a breast. The crispy coating isn’t heavily spiced, but still tasty. But what wins is the amount of chicken you get for the price, along with the fact it tasted fresh. I’ve had better fried chicken before, but probably not for this price. This was a win.
Fried whiting:Prepared skin-on, this fish tasted like the whiting my grandmother used to fry in her kitchen in Clarksville. Sure, you can peel off the gray skin, which can be a bit fishy tasting, but I like it, so I ate it. The coating had a similar flavor to that of the fried chicken, although perhaps seasoned a tad more, and it also was not fried as crispy. Nevertheless, it was delicious, and gave way to perfectly cooked, mild whiting fish, a Southern favorite, at least for my Kentucky-born grandparents.