If you live near 48th & Chicago, count yourself lucky: You’ve got a head start on the rest of us. You’re set to grab one of the (very) few seats in the hole in the culinary wall called Elbow Room, of which there’s not much.
A lively takeout trade on Super Bowl Sunday, the night of my visit, underscores what I’m about to demonstrate: that this tiny enterprise — born of a food truck — offers some of the very best in Southern soul food in the metro.
Its formal name is R.A. MacSammy’s Elbow Room, christened for that iconic pasta profile that’s the base of chef-owner Kevin Huyck’s signature dish, mac and cheese. A single portion ($8, with add-in ingredients extra) could feed a Winnebago full of kids, with plenty left over for the dude at the wheel.
That adult would be wise to opt for inclusion of the pulled pork or smoked brisket, both the Real Deal. Foodies cans summon flavor enhancers that range from caramelized onions to Brussels sprouts, roasted garlic to blue cheese.
But you won’t need any extras from the dairy, for it comes with a six-cheese medley (none of which, thankfully, is American) already in a clingy but not overbearing sauce. Or choose the rotating special version, on this visit featuring Mexican street corn, red peppers, jalapenos, cilantro-lime crema and cotija cheese.
But wait, as they say in late-night TV commercials, there’s more! And that “more” is worth the drive, starting with the chicken biscuit sandwich.
Nine dollars brings you an ample, full-bodied, buttermilk-tenderized biscuit clasping crispy slaw, icebox pickle rounds and a fried-chicken thigh that almost got me to weeping. It’s Nashville-good, that’s what; moist and tender as all get-out beneath its crispy skin, dipped in flour, then milk, then flour again before hitting the fryer.
Choose Minnesota mild or Tennessee hot, which is definitely the way to go and won’t dissolve your tongue.
There’s also a brisket and a pulled pork sammy, grilled pimiento cheese (I’ll be back for this one) and a tempeh po’boy. Plus, what used to be a Kentucky hot brown turkey sandwich, “but customers weren’t familiar with that, so it didn’t sell and we changed it to a smoked turkey version,” said the owner’s daughter, who doubles as baker (more on that later) and chef hospitality agent.
Well, a hot brown is worth the drive to Kentucky, so our loss.
Instead, turn your gaze to the menu above the order counter to discover that heavenly form of dining called meat and three. You probably know the drill: Choose your meat and three sides to go with it, as featured in classic cafeteria lines south of the Mason Dixon line.
We opted for the pulled pork — a mountain of fork-tender, juicy (but a bit salty) meat to savor with those hard-to-choose-between sides. The coleslaw proved perky and spared of over-dressing, a nice palate-cleanser. Seared Brussels sprouts were so tasty that even my companion, who’d never allowed one to enter her mouth before, admitted it was edible. (More than that, actually — downright delicious.)
So were the collard greens, perhaps the best version in my memory: not overpowered by salty bacon but rather simmered with a bit of bacon fat, along with chicken broth, onions and more, elevating them to veggie hall of fame.
And the grits! True South, creamy and full-textured. (You can also order a side of that mac and cheese as one of your three.)
Everything is made in-house, and that includes the desserts, which should be required eating before they let you out the door.
We had to try the gooey butter cake, a treat I’ve never found outside St. Louis, where street fights occur over whose version is best. It’s a sorta coffee cake-cake, gooey as promised with cream cheese filling. Big enough to share with that Winnebago load, also.
But other temptations arose on the menu board: a nanner pudding, with from-scratch vanilla pudding enhancing vanilla wafers, sliced bananas and whipped cream. Also a couple of fruit cobblers and cookies ($2–$4.50).
There is one downside: no beer. Nor sweet tea. But canned beverages galore, and sweet service to make up for that loss, and a whole lot more.
735 E. 48th St.