Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mama's Subs for Croaker's Spot

It was going to be a neighborhood night 'cause we were going to end up at Gallery 5.

I had a hankering for soul food, so I planned to introduce my friend to Croaker's Spot and wow him with its retro charm, cornbread and fish.

Except Croaker's Spot was padlocked closed.

Not a problem in the neighborhood formerly known as the "Harlem of the South."

We just headed up the block and went to Mama's instead.

The handsome, well-dressed customer standing outside the door smiled and since he looked so satisfied, I asked him about the place.

He had nothing but good things to say about the food and that he'd been repeatedly.

We were sold.

Except for the TV screen over the bar (screens in general don't belong in restaurants except sports bars, imho), it was a charming place with a cozy neighborhood feel.

The place mats were fuzzy-feeling with colorful circles, very groovy, and looked like the kind of thing the Brady Bunch might have eaten off of.

The bartender was friendly and accommodating; I asked her what her favorite entree was and she gave me a big old grin, saying, "Well, I'm a pork chop kind of girl."

Amen to that, honey.

I ordered the fried trout because the guy outside had recommended it and it came with a corn muffin.

I told my companion that it was just like Fridays in my house growing up; some kind of fish, a veggie and corn bread or corn muffins.

He got the salmon cakes, another Friday staple in my family.

The trout was crispy fried perfect and his salmon cakes a lot like my mom's, perhaps a bit moister.

I got a side of the green beans after asking how they were ("They're really good today," our pork-loving server said) and boy, was she right.

I'm used to my family's salt-pork-infused overcooked green beans and these, while not crispy, were cooked just right and had a hint of sweetness ("white sugar," we were told)

Fans of the sweet, allow me alert you to the cake cabinet, located next to the bar.

Five different kinds were on display, although their most popular, the pineapple-coconut, was already sold out ("Come earlier," she told me, "It goes fast!").

They're made by the owner's sister, I was told, and that was enough.

I got the chocolate/chocolate cake to go and my friend got the almond cake and we ate them at G5.

Tasting like the kind of cakes my Richmond grandmother made when we used to come visit her (she cooled the layers on racks on the fire escape; to a 6-year old kid that's the most amazing thing you've ever seen).

Almost black, with a soft, gooey chocolate icing; it was quite the dessert fix.

My friend's almond cake was delicious, too, just not chocolate.

Next up was Gallery 5's free monthly documentary screening; it was "Heavy Metal in Baghdad," filmed over three years about the only heavy metal Iraqi band,

Acrassicuada, and their attempts to play despite the forces trying to shut them down.

The film felt very DIY and the film crew seemed to genuinely like the band, continuing to follow them for years to keep up with their efforts to bring heavy metal to the public.

When asked why heavy metal was their choice, one of the band members answered, "The reason is because we're in the middle of a war."

The rage he mentions about the bombing and and constant attacks was explained by the drummer as, "If I didn't get that anger out by playing drums so hard, I would kill somebody."

Understandably, given the environment.

During an interview with a band member and his brother outside about an upcoming show it shortly becomes clear that it is becoming less safe to be outside.

As the musician continues to answer questions, his brother digs his fingers into his knee and tersely asks, "Can we go now?" and inside they go for their own safety.

The band eventually become heavy metal refugees seeking sanctuary in Syria, where they also record the first heavy metal record there.

Only three songs long, it is the accomplishment of their lives and their euphoria is touching.

Bu, they're guys, after all, and they got into heavy metal for more than just an anger outlet.

"With this goatee, I get a lot of girls," one band member says proudly.

And isn't that what generations of bands have been about anyway?

Political statements are important, but there's more to music than just standing up for that you believe in.

Sometimes you just want to score a pork chop kind of a girl.

And in Baghdad, a goatee helps you do that.

Rock on, guys.

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