Situated adjacent to Shawnee Park at the edge of Louisville’s Chickasaw neighborhood, Big Momma’s Soul Food Kitchen is a no frills operation. Big Momma helms a tightly run ship, her focus remaining squarely on the food — a cornucopia of soul food’s greatest hits.
The square, white concrete building is small and unassuming, save for the aroma of fried chicken emanating from the front door as patrons file in and out, styrofoam containers securely in hand. It was a steamy summer afternoon when my family and I procured our own styrofoam boxes heavy with an assortment of Big Momma’s specialties, settling in for a pleasant, albeit messy picnic at Shawnee Park.
While we found some elements of our makeshift buffet to be lackluster, several items were worthy of a return visit, particularly the most well known of all soul food dishes. In a town known for its fried chicken, Big Momma’s take is worthy of a seat at the best-of table.
Big Momma’s menu changes daily; a day-by-day breakdown of what’s on tap hangs over top a glass-covered buffet. Open Wednesday through Sunday, fried chicken, baked chicken and meatloaf are menu staples, along with sides of mac and cheese, green beans, cabbage, and mashed potatoes. Rib tips and sauerkraut, on the other hand, are reserved for Wednesdays, and fried catfish is a Friday special. Entrees range in price from $9 to $10 and include two side dishes and a piece of cornbread.
We fell into line upon entering the small, standing-room-only restaurant space. Patrons take turns placing their orders via a microphone before moving to the register to pay for and collect their meal. Various signs border the buffet’s glass cover, providing frank direction and quippy commentary like "We will not pick over food! So don’t ask." and "The Lord didn’t do it in one day. What makes you think I can?"
Mini jugs of Big Momma’s sweet tea and lemonade are available for purchase, along with a selection of soda and bottled water. As the restaurant is a carry-out only establishment, I recommend making the short walk or drive to neighboring Shawnee Park. We settled into a picnic table and began a rotation of boxes, quietly nudging each compilation of entree and sides toward our neighbor as we shared and sampled Big Momma’s cooking.
The immediate standout was the fried chicken. The large breast and wing portion we ordered was plenty juicy and perfectly crisped. The breading had just the right amount of seasoning and boasted crunchy edges. I wouldn’t want my fried chicken any other way.
Also well seasoned was the catfish, a single filet encrusted in stone ground cornmeal. All that was missing was a creamy tartar sauce, however, we neglected to ask if this accompaniment was available. A sauce to go along with the salmon croquettes would have also been beneficial, as we found these relatively large fried rolls lacking salt and enough salmon in the filling to pack a punch.
No one has claimed this business.