Even though a lot of people do not realize it, the USA has a wealth of homegrown ethnic cuisines. Cajun, Creole, Tex-Mex and Carolina Barbecue are but a few of the regional styles that have grown up here. Soul food developed here, combining several elements to create an ethnic cuisine based on African and American cooking styles, along with the foods available here at the time. Simple foods such as grits and ox tails, all that most people could get, were turned into delicious meals.
R & J Southern Homecooking in Downey gives an authentic taste of true Soul food. A medium sized restaurant, not fancy but comfortable and homey, R & J has all the classics and does them very well. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner so there is plenty of chance to try true Southern home cooking for any meal of the day.
Breakfasts consist of the standards such as eggs and pancakes. A better choice however is to opt for one of the Southern breakfasts. Choices include grits and eggs, biscuits and gravy, pork chops with grits and eggs, boudin sausage (a Louisiana specialty) and fried fish with grits and eggs. All the breakfasts include their country fried potatoes.
Lunch specials include crawfish, shrimp and fries, chicken curry and pork chops with rice and gravy. The highlight of the lunches might be the po'boys, stacked high with either fried shrimp or fried oysters. The oysters are plump, hot and delicious. The sandwich includes lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo. It is a big sandwich, both in size and in flavor. The oysters have a perfect crust, with a delicious taste of the sea inside.
Side dishes at R & J are not to be missed. The collard greens are tender and extremely flavorful. The hush puppies have bits of jalapeno in them which elevate the taste of this humble treat. Fried okra is a textbook example of what it should be, lightly breaded, hot and not greasy, bursting with okra flavor and crunchiness from the breading. The yams are perfect, closer to savory than sweet and served with their sauce that needs to have every drop finished. Other sides include red beans and rice, mac and cheese, cole slaw and succotash. This truly is a taste of the South.
At dinner time, there are dozens of excellent choices. Fish and seafood are a specialty. Sand dabs are a local Southern California fish, uncommon on most restaurant's menus except for a few high-end fresh seafood and French restaurants. With a texture and flavor similar to sole, the sand dabs are a delicious treat the way that R & J prepares them, either fried,grilled or blackened. Oysters, scallops, and catfish appear on the menu. Some other more unusual items are there also such as frog's legs and a whole perch. All the dinner dishes come with two sides so there is a nice variety to choose from. R & J does a great version of the quintessential Southern dish, gumbo. From the taste of the broth, made with a long-simmered roux, to the seafood such as crab legs and andouille sausage, it is a bowl of gumbo with so many layers of flavors that every spoonful is a different treat. The gumbo is available in a few different sizes, so it can serve as an appetizer or a main dish. Blackened salmon also provides a meal for those who want to stay away from fried dishes. All the fish is available blackened, fried or grilled.
Traditional dishes are popular for dinner. Juicy Southern fried chicken is available either plain or smothered in a delicious gravy. Chicken and dumplings are also on the menu and a variety of chicken and turkey wing plates. Pork chops and steak are also available smothered in gravy. Slow cooked meats are a specialty, bringing a rich flavor to the table. The short ribs are huge, cooked just to that point where they are tender but not quite falling off the bone. The gravy is incredibly rich, a long-simmered beefy sauce that should be mopped up with the bread to get every bit of flavor. Ox tails up the flavor scale even more, rich, tender and with a depth of flavor that is unmatched. If there is any must-try dish at R & J, it would be the ox tails. This is true Southern cooking, where humble ingredients are turned into Epicurean feasts.
For curry fans, it is worth asking if they have curry that day. If they do, some of the dishes can be made to order that way, changing the character of the dish and giving a Caribbean flavor to it.
R & J Southern Homecooking is only a few minutes away from Orange County, yet the feeling is of dining in a roadside restaurant somewhere in Mississippi. The flavors are true to the South. It is definitely a fixture in the area, even down to the Sunday after church crowd that comes in. Service is friendly, more like the “Southern Hospitality” you would expect in a small town in the South. R & J Homecooking is true to it's roots and an excellent choice for fine Southern and Soul food cooking.
R & J Southern Homecooking
8852 Rosecrans Avenue