I’ve encountered a bit of a problem trying to eat virtuously these days: too much kale, not enough grits.
To counteract this dietary malfunction, I headed straight to Powderhorn and searched for a new outpost called Funky Grits. It’s the ER for combating weight loss and the suicidal urge to fit into the jeans you wore in high school. And, talk about neighborhood revitalization? This ain’t your grandpa’s Southside short-order diner.
It’s a beyond-cool and sunny salon of forward design, employing a wall of rough planks that segues to birch-toned tables posed against walls in sherbet tones of lime and orange. But, not to get all uppity, there’s no podium with a fashionista hostess nor a recitation of daily specials. Place your order at the counter, then relax as it speeds your way.
The only moment of discomfort arrived when I asked for my order. Instead of “Yes,” they insisted on specifics. And being forced to choose among the eight “soul signatures” ($13) is not for the faint-hearted. Fortunately, each is portioned generously enough for sharing, unless you know what’s good for you and want to corral every last schmear for yourself.
One caveat: Many items are deep-fried, and fried almost into obliteration, such as our starters ($9). Corn-battered avocado slices were presented with a perky pico de gallo and suave roasted-tomatillo sauce. The corn puppies app presents a two-fer op for culinary misbehavior: rich, tender, fatty pork belly deep-fried in an impenetrable corn batter, brittle from overzealous timing.
On to the real reason to walk in the door — the “signatures.” The Acadian is the kitchen’s best-seller and my personal fave. Atop a tsunami of those ultra-creamy grits, richly flavored with aged cheddar, perch shrimp, spicy rounds of smoked andouille sausage and members of the holy trinity (celery, onion, sweet green pepper), plus sweet red peppers and spangles of green onion.
The Central High number, named for a former neighborhood landmark, employs those heavenly grits to support more pork belly — braised, this time, and joined by a puree of praline-sweetened sweet potatoes and crushed pecans. The Funky Grits plate is a bit more out-there, with a blue-cheese addition to the cornmeal, roasted house-made beef boudin sausage, pickled (and mild) jalapenos, the holy trinity again, and a sizzle of chipotles, along with — huh? — a smoked-walleye cake. Alas, the tender, mild-flavored fish was massacred by, again, a lengthy sentence in the deep fryer.
Other plates spotlight chicken with collard greens and country ham, red eye gravy, buttermilk biscuit and an easy egg (next time!). Sandwiches, too ($12), went untasted, but were clearly born of a Southern mentality, enhanced with a list of classic sides. Or add a salad, called Purple Reign in honor of Central High’s most famous grad: roasted beets, arugula, kale, shallot confit, almonds, sorghum popcorn and citrus vinaigrette.
The dessert list ($6) is simple: either peach cobbler or piggy crispy. The cobbler was sold out, so we split the second: puff pastry filled with house-made apple jam and topped with (again overfried) bacon bits. Hold out for the cobbler. Or order another drink (Bauhaus beers, wines from Oregon’s Evolution Winery). Or sweet tea, of course. Kids’ menu, too.
And did I mention grits?
805 E. 38th St. | 367-4978