Those who are still lamenting the demise of Johnson’s Diner should know there are other places to find good Southern cuisine and the food known as soul. No, they aren’t as convenient to downtown, and may be out of the comfort zone of some of the politicians and business people who wanted to be seen patronizing (I chose that word carefully) African-American establishments. But they’re every bit as good as Johnson’s Diner was in its heyday, or, in the case of Lowe’s Good Eaton Soul Food Restaurant, better.
In fact, Lowe’s occupies a small, unassuming building on Kennedy Boulevard in Eatonville (Good Eaton -- get it?) that is reminiscent of Johnson’s Diner before its ill-fated move to the pristine digs on Church Street. Lowe’s is more spacious, however, but it has the feel of being invited to eat at a friend’s kitchen table.
A friend and I stopped in for lunch recently and were greeted warmly by the woman who appeared to be in charge. Guests order food cafeteria style from the counter, choosing from among the entrees and side dishes on display in the steam tables behind glass. (There are other items that are available from a menu -- burgers or tilapia, for example -- but everything in view looked great, so I saw no reason to stray.) I had a hard time choosing what I wanted from the baked chicken, smothered pork chops, meatloaf and oxtails, but I did manage to narrow it down to two, so the woman serving the food suggested a combo. I selected the meatloaf and pork chop with a side of rice and black-eyed peas and collard greens. My friend got the baked chicken and stewed cabbage.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone moan after eating cabbage, at least not in a good way. My friend was in heaven and declared the cabbage the best. Ever. I suspect they were prepared in much the same way as the greens, which were pretty damn good, too, with a bit of fat back for a meaty flavor.
The side dishes in no way overshadowed the entrees. The meatloaf was particularly tasty and had a proper firm texture. The pork chop reminded me of the chops I had as a kid. My friend’s baked chicken wasn’t extraordinary, just tender and juicy as it should be.
The dining room won’t win any prizes for design or decor, but it was comfortable. And everyone we had contact with was friendly and welcoming. They also thanked us for coming when we left, inviting us to come again. I certainly will.
Lowe’s Good Eaton Soul Food Restaurant is at 429 E. Kennedy Blvd., Eatonville. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Most items are under $10 and include side dishes. Click here for the Web site. The phone number is 407-647-7955.