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Southern Comfort

On the eastern edge of Torrance, a couple of blocks from El Camino College and a two-minute drive from the sushi bars and poi -slingers of Gardena, Flossie’s is a cheerful place in a corner mini-mall, a storefront shrine to sweet, heavy food and the Southern ideal of meat-and-threes. Flossie’s is the closest you can get in Los Angeles to Mississippi boarding-house cuisine. Come hungry.

There are sprays of dried flowers on the walls and household utensils scattered along a ledge near the ceiling. There is also Flossie, a pretty, gray-haired black woman from Cleveland, Miss., who putters among the pots and pans in back, preparing all the food.

People waiting for their takeout order on a Saturday afternoon catch up on the local gossip, occasionally interrupted by the exclamations of a Trinidadian man working his way through a huge mound of pork ribs. “Mon, this stuff is good,” he says to nobody in particular. “But oh, ho ho . . . those Friday beef ribs are even better.” Flossie looks up from a tray of macaroni and cheese, and smiles.

What Flossie’s serves is mostly daily specials, except for the perfect Southern fried chicken, which is always on hand. Regulars know that Monday is soft sweet mountains of meat loaf; Wednesday is long-smothered pork chops cooked so that they fall apart when you look at them; Thursday is chewy, crusty chicken-fried steak. You could set your clock by it. Entrees, with a startch and two vegetables, are shoveled from steam-table bins into Styrofoam containers, even for people who decide to eat in the restaurant--Flossie does about 90% takeout. Two fragrant corn muffins are twisted into a link of foil, and piled atop the closed containers. One of Flossie’s dinners, at $5.95, feeds two with leftovers for breakfast. And your car smells like heaven, all the way home.

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What you want for the starch is the mac ‘n’ cheese, not the effete four-cheese kind at upscale restaurants but the tremendous, greasy American kind--crusted, curdled, buttery, at least one-third cheese by weight. The alternative is rice and gravy, in the classic, dull truck-stop version.

Vegetables change with the season but usually include red beans, mixed in with rice and studded with chunks of hot sausage; delicious cabbage steamed to just this side of mush; and smoky black-eyed peas. Collard greens are the sugary type, spiked with chunks of yam and sweet as Frosted Flakes, even when you sprinkle them with pepper vinegar. If you can get the corn-and-okra glop, sort of a gooshy succotash, while the corn is still crisp, go for that--the flavors are fresh and clean. For an extra buck and a half, you can get firm, well-cooked yams, floating in a heavenly liquored sauce.

Desserts include crusty, sweet red pudding in incredibly sweet lemon sauce, good sweet potato pie, and hot peach cobbler in sugary syrup, sweet and simple as a valentine from a 6-year-old.

And then there are the tamales, thin spicy tubes of masa lightly wrapped in corn husks, intensely fragrant of corn and served in a searingly hot chile gravy: real Delta food, great for parties. You can buy the tamales by the half-dozen . . . but you’d better get at least twice that if you want any left by the time you get home.

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Flossie’s, 3566 Redondo Beach Blvd., Torrance, (213) 352-4037. Open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; until 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Cash only. No alcohol. Lot parking. Take out. Dinner for two, food only, $12 to $15.


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