How much would you pay for a really good plate of mac & cheese, collard greens, smothered pork chops and some fresh peach cobbler to top it all off?
$30? $20? $10?
Maybe none of the above.
I had this discussion with a reader shortly after Delta’s restaurant abruptly closed a few days ago. The reader argued that the Delta’s concept was flawed from the get-go.
With so many great cooks working their magic in home kitchens all around our city, she said, why would a black person pay what Delta’s charged for fried chicken ($19.95), pork chops ($17.95) or catfish ($21.95). The reader said good soul food is simply too abundant in the South to support that kind of a high-end restaurant, especially one that targets African Americans – the maestros of down-home cuisine.
Maybe the concept would work better in another region of the country, or maybe even in a bigger Southern city like Atlanta, she said, but certainly not here in Charlotte.
The unspoken problem with Delta's, the reader said, was that better-tasting food could be had for far less money at United House of Prayer or the Chicken Box Café – to say nothing about the spread served each Sunday for free at Big Mamma’s house or over at Aunt Flossie’s.
Okay, let’s not get into a fuss right now about food quality. If all things were even, would you pay extra – a lot extra – for a good soul-food meal at a high-end restaurant with tablecloths, a professional staff and maybe a live jazz band…especially if that restaurant were owned and operated by African Americans?
I argued a slightly different point. Dining out, I said, is also a social experience; it’s not just about whether I could get food just as good at home, in a church cafeteria or at a relative’s kitchen.
But a part of me thinks the reader may be right.
About a year ago my wife and I spent some time in Harlem and decided to visit the world-famous Sylvia’s on Malcolm X Boulevard. I remember thinking that the food was good but certainly no better than the typical meals I get when I visit my sisters, Barbara, Sandra, Helen or Sallie (Each of my eight sisters can burn, but these four take it to a whole new level.)
Would I eat at Sylvia’s each week if I lived nearby? Probably not, but I also would be no stranger there.
My reader went on to argue that high-end soul food is a concept best marketed to a white clientele that might see it as a novelty. (On the day we went to Sylvia’s, about half the patrons were white, and a good percentage was obviously foreign tourists.)
So what do you think, Qcity?
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