Westside Southern


Mamie’s Southern-Style Kitchen is a cheerful restaurant in a bright neon mini-mall, with gingham oilcloth and two kinds of hot sauce on the tables and photographs of rural Louisiana on the walls--the kind of semi-Creole place you’d expect to see on the fringes of a Texas downtown but not on the fringes of the new Olympic corridor, squeezed between a Subway and a Mrs. Fields’ Cookies.

Mamie’s may not be the single best Southern restaurant on the Westside--the celebrity-infested Aunt Kizzy’s edges it out on corn bread and fried chicken--but it’s certainly the only restaurant of its kind within miles. If you fax in an order, Mamie’s will deliver to your office building--and let you pay with an American Express card--though smothered steak with black-eyed peas and collard greens seems too good to be eaten at a desk.

Like urban lunchrooms from Birmingham to Houston, Mamie’s is sort of a cafeteria-style place, with a line that starts at the door, steel tracks to push your tray along and fixed-price lunches: stuffed peppers on Wednesdays, gumbo on Fridays, fried chicken every day of the week. With your entree you get dryish corn biscuits, a choice of rice or mashed potatoes and any two vegetables: smothered cabbage, goopy creamed corn, rich mac ‘n’ cheese, intense, spicy black-eyed peas.


Red beans are cooked down to a sort of pillowy tenderness with a liberal dose of what tastes like Cajun Magic seasoning, which more or less replaces Lawry’s seasoned salt on Louisiana tables. Sweet potatoes, big chunks, float in a dense, nutmeg-scented syrup, seriously sweet, and taste something like the best sweet-potato pie you’ve ever had.

Mamie’s makes certain concessions to Westside tastes. Collard greens are available either stewed down with fatback or meatless, and there’s meatless gravy on the mashed potatoes. The green beans cooked with tomatoes and onions are more California-crisp than two-hour Mississippi-limp. You have to put the sugar in the iced tea yourself.

Most gumbos are sharp and musky, but Mamie’s version (available Fridays) is creamy and mild, based on a thick, butterscotch-colored roux, with a mellow top note of long-cooked sweet peppers, filled with shrimp, crab pincers, hunks of sausage. It’s as genteel as you can imagine a gumbo to be. Gently seasoned Creole meatloaf, in a Mom-style tomato sauce, seems almost as packed with vegetables as it is with meat. The Saturday oxtails, stewed until they threaten to float free of their bones, are gelatinous and meaty, drenched in a brown gravy lively with capers like an old-fashioned sauce piquant. They’re the best food in the restaurant.

But a meat-and-three restaurant lives or dies by its chicken, and the chicken is pretty good here, whether baked, smothered in tan gravy and served with dumplings, or especially pan-fried--moist and sandy-crusted, packing a jolt of garlic and black pepper.

The desserts are fairly basic--sock-it-to-me cake and sweet-potato pies and a blackberry cobbler that might have been terrific if a quick trip through the microwave hadn’t turned the crust into something resembling yesterday’s lasagna.

* Mamie’s Southern-Style Kitchen

11102 W. Olympic Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 478-8857. Open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 2 to 9 p.m. American Express, MasterCard and Visa accepted. No alcohol. Arduous lot parking. Takeout. Weekday delivery. Lunch for two, food only, $13.50; dinner for two, food only, $17.90.