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AFTER two failed attempts I finally managed to secure a table at the Carolina Kitchen. I'd read a lot of buzz from foodie blogs and websites (including the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food Guide) and as a fan of traditional American southern food from way back, I was pretty much sold on the place just upon hearing the name, and hearing they sell hoagies. Hoagies you ask? More on that later…
What strikes as particularly unusual is that this tiny but charming takeaway parlour is its location in the backstreets of my own suburb of Coorparoo in Brisbane's inner-east, and I'd never seen or heard about it – until now.
Clearly Carolina Kitchen isn't the place most people just stumble upon, but that added to my excitement about visiting a place like this. Located well away from any main roads among the residential streets of Coorparoo in a converted homestead, the building of Carolina Kitchen is reminiscent of a general store from the yesteryear.
Anyway, after two failed attempts at trying to get a table at the Carolina Kitchen -- the first they were closed over the Christmas period, the second they were packed with a line out the door, we finally secured a table by making a booking. Clearly their 'off the beaten track' location didn't seem to be hurting business at all, and with no formal advertising or official website it seems good old word of mouth and a little positive press has spread the word.
From the exterior, the vibrant white tiled splashbacks gave the feel of freshly renovated kitchen. With the Americana styled stars and stripes signage promising NY Fries, Spicy Buffalo Chicken Wings, Smoked BBQ Pork Ribs, not to mention the Hoagie sandwiches, it was hard not to feel as you have arrived somewhere that is truly out of the ordinary.
Would it be fair to say I was quivering in anticipation? 'God Bless America!' I thought. They definitely know how to do down-home comfort food with tasty goodness that wraps onto you like a warm hug from a Southern momma.
A warm hug, with food coma comfort our food definitely was. Our party of four wasn't shy about ordering a variety of items on the All-American menu, mostly items with a Southern influence.
First up were the NY fries ($7.95) which were about as different as regular fries as you can get. Shoestring French fries smothered in a chilli sauce (think chilli beans flavoured not actual chillies) with generous dollops of sour cream and melted cheese – we needed good luck just stopping at just a few.
Next were the Chilli Dogs ($5.95) which despite being basic, were delicious in their simplicity. It had to be all in the sausage. Not about to stop there, we ordered a medium ribs to share drenched in a smoked hickory BBQ sauce as well as a 12 pack of Buffalo Chicken Wings which came with a side of blue cheese dipping sauce.
Buffalo Chicken Wings have just the right amount of spice
Can I just say that I think I just fried (died) and went to Kentucky fried heaven.
The chicken wings had a real bite with their spiced coating, which was perfectly offset with the blue cheese sauce. Then came 'Aunt Lily Mae's BBQ ribs' (regular size $16.95) which while quite messy to eat, were slow cooked and extremely tender. The ribs fell off the bone and had a generous amount of fleshy goodness on each rib, unlike some racks of ribs which can often be more bone than anything else.
My pants were cutting into my waistline at this point but that wasn't before washing it all down with an American soft-drink (sorry that's Soda) which is almost par for the course with a meal like this. The choices include Grape Fanta as well as traditional A&W root beer and the medicine-like Dr. Pepper if your taste buds swing that way.
Important American Soda's (not soft drinks) are available at the Carolina Kitchen
Vegetarians or the calorie counters aren't likely to find much that suits at Carolina Kitchen however that's not their target market – nor do they make any apologies for this. The tiny cafe slash diner only has seating for about 20 people, so unless you book enough in advance, the popularity and limited capacity of this place might make showing up here on the weekends out of the question, unless you don't mind waiting.
We left full and happy, with our table quickly snapped up by the people who had been waiting jealously and hungrily outside. This isn't the sort of place where you'll be encouraged to linger, since the takeaway style makes it a quick, in-and-out dining affair supported by it's good value takeaway-style prices.
Even with my almost belt-popping fullness, there was so much I still wanted to sample at the Caronlina Kitchen, including the Turkey and Cranberry submarine style hoagie sandwich, and the famous spiced pumpkin pie. Next time it will be a lunch time visit, and since they actually deliver (AMAZING right?) I may even decide to enjoy the deliciousness of Carolina Kitchen away from the crowds in my own home.
To echo another review of the Carolina Kitchen, I also need to ask the question why there aren't more of these traditional American-style southern takeaway joints like these. As a refreshing change from Thai or Indian, it seems there is definitely a market with the number authentic and affordable American eateries like this in Brisbane definitely lacking.
If you like comfort food, eat meat, and live in Brisbane you shouldn't need any other reasons to give this place a go. I know being a local I'll be back again and again – hoagies and pumpkin pie a must. Oh Carolina now you have me in your comforting embrace, and I'm not sure if I'd ever want you to let me go...