A long time ago, when I was very, very young, we could sometimes only afford meat once a week. It would be served up on Sundays.
No, I didn’t grow up during the Depression; we just didn’t have a lot of money.
So, as the weekend wore down and we faced another Monday and a week of work or school, mom — whose culinary cachet was pretty much limited to baking cakes and opening cans — would buy a couple of pounds of chicken and whip up her one tried and true specialty: Southern fried chicken.
Crispy, golden and juicy on the inside, there was something so warm and comforting about that chicken, something so special about those Sunday suppers.
Before you start in on the "supper" vs. "dinner" debate, I like saying Sunday supper because of the lovely alliteration and because that’s what we called it.
Mom and her people were from the South where dinner was the main meal of the day, be it early or late. Holiday meals were dinners but Sunday’s main meal was always supper.
That’s just the way it was. If you want to argue, go find a forum.
Those family Sunday suppers are back in vogue — if not at home then certainly at a number of Houston restaurants.
Sundays have traditionally been dead days for local eateries, except for those offering Sunday brunch —and there are a lot of them around — but they usually shut down by mid-afternoon.
Now, however, some places are opening between 5 and 9 p.m. to offer family-style meals for folks looking for that comfort meal without the kitchen time and cleanup. Yes, it’s a way to increase sales during this stagnant economy, but still there’s something soothing about having an early Sunday meal of old-fashioned food.
The restaurants seem just as conflicted about whether to call that Sunday meal "supper" or "dinner." Some folks think it’s a regional thing, or rural vs. city talk, but I'm sticking with Sunday supper. My definition requires only a family-style setting and no molecular gastronomy experiments allowed.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Frank’s Chop House recently opened for lunch and dinner (yes, they say dinner) on Sundays with the regular menu of stick-to-your-ribs Texas treats like maple-brined double-bone pork chops and chopped sirloin steak with mashed potatoes and Frank Capritto’s homegrown tomatoes.
- At the new and ultra-trendy RDG + Bar Annie, it’s also Sunday dinner (we need to talk to Robert del Grande about changing it to supper) from 5-9:00 p.m.
- Known for its Sunday blues brunch, House of Blueshas also recently opened for Sunday evenings, offering a Cajun comfort menu of fried or smothered chicken, fried pork chops and fried catfish with fried okra, among other menu items. Are we sensing a fried trend here? At least HOB wisely stays out of the supper/dinner fray by labeling the new menu Soul Kitchen Sundays.
- At both benjy’s locations (Rice Village and Washington Ave.), owner Benjy Levitt endears himself to us by actually calling it Sunday super. The pre-fixe menu changes monthly but so far has included such entrees as bourbon molasses pork ribs with warm potato salad and fried chicken (not just like mom’s but pretty darned close) along with salad and cake. I dropped in awhile back for a meal of buffalo meat loaf (the southern style ground meat dish, not Texan Michael Aday), with garlic-mashed potatoes, lots of greens and a severely decadent chocolate cake. For under $20 it was a heck of a meal, pretty much like the ones you might have had at your grandma’s house on Sunday after church.
Just like mom and grandma, benjy's serves up big portions, which make a really nice doggie bag. And a great cold meatloaf and mashed potato sandwich come Monday.