What happens when you are a Miami native visiting Chicago, but missing your Aunt Roxanne’s amazing African-American dessert options like peach cobbler, banana pudding, and chess pie? You take a quick drive to the South side and give Miss Lee’s Good Food at 203 E Garfield Blvd, Chicago, IL 60637, a visit to indulge in a homemade buttermilk pie. A staple in the southern United States, a buttermilk pie is a custard like pie sometimes confused with chess pies. Lacking the earthiness of cornmeal, it’s still a great substitute.
Miss Lee bakes these babies fresh everyday giving you an option to get it cool or straight from the oven. I know I should have started our visit here with actual food, but I was simply too intrigued by this nostalgic dessert. After devouring the pie, I turned to the restaurant’s very versatile menu.
Contrary to popular belief, African-American cuisine, when prepared correctly is healthy. Think about it. Collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, green beans, yams, sweet potatoes, watermelon, cabbage, okra and tomatoes, corn, pinto beans black eye peas, lima beans, grits, sound more like a vegan plate rather than diabetic, hypertensive, and cancerous menu options. Even our proteins of baked chicken, stewed shrimp, crab, grilled fish from the Georgia Islands and even variations of our gumbo have amazing health benefits and should be celebrated instead of demonized by focusing on the unhealthy preparation of these nutrient rich options.
Miss Lee gives her customers an option in keeping to the true roots of African-American cooking with strong healthy African roots, or the more European influenced items such as smothered chicken, smothered steak and onions, spinach, and even rutabaga.
I was a bit conservative in my ordering at this location because, from the smell of it, I would have lost control and stuffed my face; and it was too cold to be walking all slow to my car. I started out with a healthy option in the delicious Grilled Herbal Chicken ($10.75,) which came with collard greens, rice and rutabaga. The herbal chicken was grilled with green bell peppers and onions while preserving its tenderness and juiciness amid a welcomed spice throughout. The rutabaga tastes like a cross between a turnip and cabbage with a mild flavor that was tasty along with collard greens right out of Grandma’s kitchen.
Desiring to remain on my health trip, I ordered the Baked Herbal Chicken ($9.75) with a side of sautéed spinach and pickled beetroots. The chicken was delicious, bursting with competing flavors of thyme, rosemary, oregano, and of course garlic that pleased my demanding taste buds. Even though I absolutely hate beets, these were ok. Plus, they’re super good for you. I tried not to eat them, but Miss. Lee was not having that bull. She told me flat out, “Boy, you better eat those beets.” So, I ate them. Each bite was a bit earthy and had the unique taste of geosmin, an organic compound produced by microbes in the soil where beets are grown, originally grown in Sweden by the way! The sautéed spinach was also tasty with crushed garlic everywhere!
As I was finishing, a woman who closely resembled Oprah’s character, Sophia, from The Color Purple came in and ordered fried chicken, mac and cheese, a buttermilk pie and PIG EARS! F@CK THIS HEALTHY SH$%! I want some damn PIG EARS! I wanted to eat some real food. Oh, Lord Have Mercy (In Deacon’s Voice). I am so sorry for getting out of character. I meant to say, I couldn’t resist seeing Oprah/Sophia smiling and digging into her delicious bag of goodness with a smell that could turn a vegan into not just an omnivore, but quite possibly a full out carnivore! I took a small break from my herbal chicken and looked at the menu. I didn’t get too crazy, so I ordered two dinners – ¼ Smothered Chicken ($9.95) and the incomparable Smothered Steak with onions ($10.35) and yeah, I had to get a buttermilk pie!
Continuing her domination of African-American cuisine, Miss Lee was flat out throwing down with this damn gravy! My Black Chicago food tour has included an uncomfortable amount of delicious gravy at various eateries. I must make a confession though, I took some of the “Black Grandma Approved” stuffing, mixed in some of the spinach and herbal chicken and it was delicious. Then I requested a side of gravy and teared up as I poured it over the entire baked herbal chicken. Now I had everything smothered. Each bite was utterly delectable. Food is very dear to me, like a woman. At times, I can get quite emotional, so please save your judgement for Donald Trump. Give it all to him.
The buttermilk pie is a must have. I know most true dessert lovers may see this pie as a mere chameleon confection of key ingredients such as vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest, which were present in its flavor along with buttermilk giving it a slightly more decadent flavor from other similarly situated pies. Aside from the string beans, which were slightly overcooked, the sides were tasty.
Miss Lee’s Good Food lived up to its name. This is a take-out joint only, which made me happy because you should be in the privacy of your own home gobbling down these amazing entrees. We loved Miss, Lee, her food, and her staff. She is Hungry Black Man approved! You can reach her at (773) 752-5253.