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Geri's Casual Dining

There’s a restaurant in downtown Renton that serves the best oxtail stew I’ve ever tasted. Never mind that I had never eaten ox-tail stew, never even knew that the tails of ox were stew-worthy, or much less that there’s enough meat on the tail of the beasts to make it worth it. James and I happened to find Geri’s Casual Dining and Catering while cruising the annual car show—he’s got some great photos of the 20th anniversary Return to Renton car show coming soon to an exciting blog near you (hint: this blog). Geri’s is closed on Saturdays, so we didn’t get a chance to see if it was bona fide, but after looking at the menu by the door and finding out it was a southern cooking mecca, we made it a point to visit as soon as possible.

While Geri herself wasn’t running the joint the evening we returned, her daughter was filling in and told us that Geri is not only bona fide, but is another ex-pat from Alabama. She was from Arizona and filled us in on some back history of how Geri found her way to Renton. The most interesting thing about the place is that Geri is absolutely concerned with healthy eating. The menu is packed with healthy items served throughout the day. I, however, was not there to test the healthy factor, so asked Geri Jr. what she recommended.

The most popular item on the menu was the oxtail stew. Unfortunately I’d already spied catfish on the menu, so James took one for the team and ordered the stew. I was a little hesitant because the fish was filleted. Everybody knows that fish is better on the bone, and catfish can be so mild that it generally needs all the help it can get. Especially if it’s overcooked or the coating is overly spiced. I had nothing to worry about.

The big cut of fish was cooked perfectly, flaky and moist. Awesome. That fillet came from one ginormous catfish, I’ve got to say. The seasoning had just a bit of kick in the crunchy cornmeal crust. I know it would’ve been better had there been spiny bones lurking in the flesh, just waiting to catch fisheaters unaware. Maybe restaurants have to pay higher insurance premiums if they serve bone-in fish? The cornmeal crust didn’t overpower the taste of the fish, but I won’t be ordering the okra with it next time.

I like a good fry up as much as the next southerner, but it can be too much. The okra itself was perfectly cooked, crunchy and not a bit sogged down as some okra is wont to do. I actually like soggy okra as much as I like crunchy okra, so it wouldn’t have bothered me either way. The okra was delicious, and the macaroni was just ok—I’m not a big mac and cheese made with cheddar fan, but this was alright.

Little nuggets of pod goodness. I could’ve eaten a whole plate of the okra.

There’s a reason the oxtail was popular. It’s good. Really good. The bits of bone freaked me out a little and had me wondering why I was robbed of fish-bone when the stew so blatantly boasted little kernels of crunchy osseous matter.

The stew came with a side of hot buttered corn cakes. Kind of a cross between a crepe and a pancake, slightly sweet, but still savory enough to sop stew from the bowl. Not that we sop. In public, that is. The stew was down home good, with chunks of potato, corn, peas, and the other mysterious things that go into stew that makes stews awesome. It’s the kind of meal that warms from the inside out. While the middle of July might not be the absolute best time to enjoy this dish, I predict the crowd at Geri’s will be calling out my name as I walk through the door and plopping a steaming bowl of tail on the counter before winter has had a chance to settle in. And by winter I mean September, by then, maybe I’ll have negotiated a deal with Geri to get dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones back in de catfish.

A girl can dream, can’t she?

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