By Sean Alday
Being from Florida, I’m often asked to explain what grits are. This happens enough that it is a cliché, but it’s a very real cliché. My explanation is generally followed by a puzzled look that appears to ask “Why would someone eat that?”
To be fair, grits are ground corn that is boiled, served very hot and generally with eggs in the morning.
Now I can just point my curious foodie friends to Mama Joy’s and tell them to order the Shrimp and Grits or the Beef Cheek.
The dark lights and casual atmosphere often lull me into a whiskey and beer soaked evening. Before I realize it the world has blurred away, it’s three in morning and I’m stepping outside with the bartender for a smoke. It was during these smoke breaks with Bob that I learned about Mama Joy herself and that most of the core staff from Mama Joy’s met through Reddit.
The interior is like an old pirate ship in some respects, with the peeled away walls revealing studs and the mirrors behind the bar looking like port holes. But there are certain flourishes such as the eucalyptus on each table and the long bar that gives each patron space (unless it gets really crowded) that touch off the southern angle they’re going for.
Being a barfly doesn’t mean that one would be excused for not trying that food, at the very least one must sample the hushpuppies. Hushpuppies are another southern delight that I associate strongly with frying freshly caught catfish. Another corn creation, hushpuppies are made from a cornmeal batter (here with celery, corn and jalepeños added to the mix) that is then deep fried. They come with a dipping sauce that makes the hushpuppies worth having every time.
The menu is small but fits in a multitude of soul food specialties courtesy of Chef Nick. The first of which I sampled was the Braised Beef Cheek. Absolutely delicious and on that night it was paired with Triple Smoke Whiskey (which I’ve chronicled here before). However, the Triple Smoke has been replaced with an interesting choice from Texas called Brimstone. If you aren’t interested in trying grits, one alternative is the Pork Duo which is served like a cake on top of cornbread with cherries as the dressing.
Your vegan friends might feel left out at this point, luckily, a Roasted Mushroom entrée will allow you bring them by at least once. If that doesn’t do it, the eight beers on tap and great selection of liquor will have to do. With options like that, it’s tough to complain.
It’s being hinted overtly stated that a few changes may be coming to Mama Joy’s mostly in the form of a backyard and silly clambakes. One thing will remain the same: You will definitely see me at the bar with my drinks, hushpuppies and boiled peanuts.
Mama Joy’s is located at 1084 Flushing Avenue across from the Loom. It is open for brunch, lunch and dinner with the kitchen closing down at 11.