Favorite

Momma Dean's good to you 

She's cooking up soul food in Fayetteville.

If you want your food nationalized — that is, undifferentiated from any chain eatery across the U.S.A. — head to the north side of Fayetteville, away from the heart and soul of one of the most iconic downtowns in the state. If you want food with character, cooked from scratch and served where tchotchkes aren't crowding your pre-fab elevated booth, get down to Momma Dean's Soul Food on south School Avenue.

Even though Fayetteville has a long history of culinary one-offs — think Coy's Place, the Hoffbrau or Herman's Ribhouse — the Momma Dean's experience is like no other. Fayetteville hosts a constant churn of a semi-transient population from everywhere that's not here, but for all the Lower Arkansans trekking through, there are precious few pockets of familiar culture.

Momma Dean (a.k.a. Meneria Morrison), who was reared on a farmstead near Emmet, a speck on the map between Hope and Prescott, brought the very essence of South Arkansas culinary culture with her when she moved north in 2001: a lifetime of recipes and the skills to make them sing on a plate. Dean was raised in a four-room shack with 13 other siblings and cousins, pre-Civil Rights. There's no shortage of character in her or the food served in her dining room. Of Dean's early lessons in the kitchen she said, "You either went out and worked the farm, or you stayed at the house and cooked. If you cooked, you'd better not burn it." Nothing this writer has ever ordered at Momma Dean's has come from the kitchen burnt, even though much of the menu is in the grand Southern style — twice cooked.

Momma Dean's slightly dingy dining room, a former Mr. Burger, is timeless in that it's like traveling back to an unspecific decade. The house music doesn't help define the time; you're as likely to hear a Rick James hit as a classic from Sam and Dave via the '80s-era boom box thumping from the kitchen. It's not exactly a quiet, romantic restaurant, but most likely Momma Dean wasn't aiming for that crowd. No, hers is a place to come and roll up your sleeves, a place to dig in and get down with food that's got — you guessed it — plenty of soul.

Momma Dean and her son, Terry, don't rely on too much salt; instead they coax natural flavors out of meats with light seasoning and a good searing, and out of veggies by not overcooking them. A standing favorite for anyone who's tried it is the fried chicken, coated in a golden, crispy batter that's just not possible to achieve through any method other than old-fashioned skillet cookin'. Fried pork chops are a close second and seldom seen served elsewhere. Other menu rarities include gizzards, yams, butter beans and flavor-of-the-day Kool-Aid.

When I asked what kind of ribs were on the special, I got a puzzled look and the answer, "They're smoked." Momma's ribs are baby back ribs, and that's that. They're cooked with that nice dark crust that rib freaks like to see, even if the meat doesn't exactly fall from the bone. A plate of five or six of them, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, a fistful of fried corn nuggets, a roll and a quart jar of sweet tea is more than enough to feed a hungry linebacker, which is good because University of Arkansas athletes frequent the place. Not long ago, the entire women's volleyball team showed up for supper, a crew that probably taxed the seating limit. The dining area is on the smallish side and Momma Dean's closes at 7:30 p.m., so it's usually full by 6 o'clock on the weekends. If you wait until after the rush, be warned that some of the more popular entrees may have sold out by then.

Favorite

Related Locations

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • The two faces of Mike Huckabee

    Medicaid expander, Obamacare opponent. Man from Hope, mansion in Florida. Child health proponent, Duggar apologist.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • The ballad of Fred and Yoko

    How one of the world's foremost Beatles collectors died homeless on the streets of Little Rock.
    • Mar 31, 2016
  • Separate and unequal

    Sue Cowan Morris won the battle to equalize pay of black and white teachers. It cost her her job.
    • Jun 11, 2015

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Watch the trailer for 'Shelter,' the Renaud Bros. new doc on homeless kids in New Orleans

    Check out the trailer for "Shelter," the Renaud Bros. new feature-length documentary about homeless teens navigating life on the streets of New Orleans with the help of Covenant House, the longstanding French Quarter shelter for homeless kids.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Cover Stories

  • Plant of the year

    The legalization of medical marijuana was Arkansas's most significant news of 2016.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Profile of a plant

    What science does and doesn't tell us about the health benefits of cannabis.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Other lights

    Honorable mentions for 2016 Arkansan of the Year, with plenty of solid contenders for the crown.
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation