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The Kingfish Cafe

Everybody has a favorite neighborhood go-to restaurant where they take the friends and fam visiting from out of town, or where to take in-town friends who “What? You haven’t been there yet? Please. Let’s go” need to visit. My old stand-by was The Kingfish Café in Capitol Hill. I say old because I’m in a new neighborhood now and also currently trying to find my new go-to. I was introduced to TKC by my old friend Jackie who took me there because she loves the Hoppin’ John Griddlejacks (made with black-eyed peas, rice, and roasted veg grilled up like hotcakes). I’ve eaten there more than a dozen times since that first visit and have tried just about everything on the menu with a few exceptions and there’s not one of them that I wouldn’t recommend. I had to read that twice to make sure I didn’t get no double negatives in there.

As I’m trying to change my diet because my ol’ body will be nearing one of those momentous birthdays next year, I’m eating less meat/dairy stuffs. Which, really, isn’t hard until I try to make it really healthy and make it a mostly plant-based diet? Plants are good, but pasta and bread? So much better. Enter The Kingfish. So last month we were in the old neighborhood and visited my ol’ favorite. TKC is located on 19th Avenue in Capitol Hill and so, as you know, that means suspect parking situations. When we arrived 5:25, there was a line in the front of folks waiting to get in. Every single time I’ve arrived early? There’s been a line to get in. And since this was an early August evening? It.was.hot.

TKC doesn’t have air conditioning, so it’s important to get in early on this kind of evening so as to sit by the window. Eating in extreme heat isn’t my bag, but it wasn’t too intolerable and the thing is, the heat went along with the atmosphere and just made the place feel more bona fide. On our way to our table, I watched the guy working behind the bar work up a serious sweat as he muddled up some juleps.

I don’t like mint, so these weren’t our drinks, but in the heat, even those things had my mouth watering. We ordered virgin drinks (iced tea $2 and root beer $3) from the bus boy. The iced tea is flavored, so be sure to ask your server what the flavors are if you’re particular.

After he dropped those off, our server Conner came over to take our order. I always feel for servers when a restaurant opens to a line outside. People have already been waiting (by choice!) and then they have to sit down and wait some more because even if a server has a small amount of tables per section, somebody’s going to have to wait. But Conner greeted us quickly and graciously and pretty soon our food started arriving.

I could write a whole blog about the cornbread muffins. There’s no way I would ever visit the joint if I was low-carbing it, because I have never visited and not ordered these muffins. These things are dense, moist, and awesome. The only way they could be better is if The Kingfish provided them for free. That’s right, I said it. Free! A ton of restaurants give out free bread before the food is served and while I understand the spectacularness that is these cornbread muffins certainly has a dollar amount, $3.75 for two, the positive vibe that would result in one muffin per person. Charge ‘em if they want more than one, but trust me on this, KC.

This side of collard greens ($3.75) is an old bff. So spicy. So beautifully cooked. Just the right amount of salt. Mmm. In the background you can see a hint of the yam fries ($4.75).

The yam fries are seasoned with cinnamon, sugar, and black pepper, because The Kingfish hits the flavor on all sides of the fry like that.

We ordered the sides as well as a House Favorite item and shared. Which is what I highly recommend doing—get some sides and share an entree because they’re huge. Since the Mac and Cheese ($13.75) was one of the few items I’d never tried, we decided to go for that. I’m not a big mac n’ cheese fan for various reasons (overcooked noodles, the usage of wrong cheeses, too rich, overpriced, weird additives like ham or chorizo). I thought $13.75 was a bit much for macaroni, but trying it at least once never hurt. Except for that time with the sushi, that is.

It arrived at the table hot, bubbly, and ginormous. They make their macaroni with mushrooms and onions and it’s served with a green salad tossed in a pretty good vinaigrette. It was good, and that’s from a non-mac person, but not as good some of the other items on the menu (Ms. Choo Choo’s ribeye, the fried chicken, the red beans and rice are favorites).

I think, as good as the food is at Kingfish, what puts them on the map with folks are the desserts. Super good baked goods at super sizes, enough for four to share.

Strawberry shortcake made with biscuits. I’ve had this before drizzled with caramel sauce, and I think I like it better without the caramel because I could taste more of the strawberries.

I think “Strawberry Shortcake” is a little too tame of a name for this dessert. I’m thinking Tower of Temptation. Pyramid of Pleasure. Mountain of Maddeningly Good Stuff. Hunka Hunka Hedonism. As our most excellent server brought out the plate, trumpets sounded. A gasp from came from the bar. A baby cried longingly from across the room. The lady at the next table wept. James, who had never seen the strawberry shortcake before and had been suspicious of its reputation, stared transfixed at the gigantic plate and only snapped out of it when I speared my spoon into the base, making sure my bite of biscuit was sopping wet from strawberry sauce and covered with that mysteriously flavored whipped cream and ate a bite, then moaned my best Giada DeLaurentiis fake-over-the-top-omg-squeal reaction. But seriously, that shortcake is spectacular.

The Kingfish Cafe was my go-to for many reasons. The ambiance, the down-home food, the desserts, but mostly it’s the service that keeps me coming back. There are times when I have to wait longer because the place is packed, but it’s always worth it. Conner treated us like we were family members coming to supper. And I mean long-distance family members who don’t get to visit on a regular basis so when we drop in, everybody’s glad to see us and ready to ply us with our favorite foods. I miss just living a few blocks away from the place and will have a hard time replacing it with a new neighborhood favorite. 

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