Following Up

The life of a food writer, who primarily covers new restaurants but also generally writes whatever he wants, is a difficult one. It is not difficult compared to things that are actually hard to do, or which require a great deal of thought, but it is difficult compared to complete stasis.

The “new restaurant, but also pretty much anything else” beat means that I feel guilty about not checking out restaurants within a month or two of their opening. And that, in turn, means that I have a hard time writing about the food.

Sometimes I write about a restaurant before it’s opened. In those cases, obviously, I don’t write about the quality of the food. Sometimes I write about a place being opened by a chef or restaurateur I know, before I’ve eaten there. In those cases, too, I make clear I’m not reviewing the food.

When I do check a place out that has food I like, I always tell the chef/owner that I’ll be back. But the truth is, sometimes I don’t make it back because a) I have to check out other, new places; b) I have a full-time day job; and c) I can’t afford to eat out all the time.

I had a chance to stop in at Marjie’s Grill recently, though, and I’m real glad I did. These kids are skilled, and they’re cooking great food.

Lunch, which was when I visited, is a “plate and side” affair. That means you choose from a selection of proteins like fried catfish, smothered chicken, and slow-grilled pork belly, then pair that choice with sides such as charred cabbage, scallion and carrots; braised greens with chili vinegar and shaved root vegetable salad.

There is an art to cooking cabbage. I guess, to be thoughtful about it, there is an art to everything, but what I mean is that anyone can boil the hell out of cabbage and make it edible.

But if you know the ingredient, you know it also loves being pickled, fermented and additionally, at Marjie’s, seared. Quickly cooked over high heat, cabbage becomes a sweet, crunchy element to a dish. When, at the same time you’re getting that seared cabbage, you also get some that’s been pickled with radishes and other root vegetables, and it’s all served with excellent fried catfish? That’s pretty good.

I went back to Marjie’s because I loved the concept, the menu, and perhaps a bit because I liked the kids behind the place. I am very happy to report that it lived up to my – pretty high – expectations, and that it’s joining the list of places I visit on a semi-regular basis as long as I have money.

You should check the website out here, where you will find a handy link to the menus. The thing about the menu you can find online is that it is more like a guideline than a menu. Most of the things you see will be available; some will not, and some dishes will have significant substitutions.

This is a good thing. It means that the restaurant is a) paying attention to what’s fresh and available, and b) capable of adapting to cook with what is fresh and available, even if it means replacing or changing a staple menu item. As an example, there will almost certainly be fried catfish on the menu when you visit, but how it’s treated, and the sauce/garnishes, will depend on the season.

There is also a happy hour in the early afternoon, between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m., during which there are discounts on adult beverages, and bar snacks like chicken feet, ceviche and cracklins’ on offer.

I’m told the place is going gangbusters at dinner, but could use some traffic around lunchtime. I don’t know why more people haven’t figured this place out as a lunch destination, but I’m sure going to take advantage of that oversight while it lasts. Because I have a feeling Marjie’s is not going to be slow at lunch, or anytime, as the year progresses.


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