The first thing you have to know about eating at Southern Cafe: You're going to have to wait. The cooks aren't lazy -- they're Slow Food-style purists who don't drop the chicken into the oil until they see the whites of the order slips. They also gently boil their collard and mustard greens until the leaves have stewed dark and velvety, soaking up all the flavor from the chunks of fatback tossed in the pot. And the cabbage, corn, and red beans and rice taste so good it's clear that they weren't tossed in a pan haphazardly. At any given time, most of the people in the restaurant are staring blankly at the TV or looking yearningly at the other tables, or sighing when they find out the dish they wanted to order is sold out. But they stay -- the place is still packed, packed, packed, night after night. Southern Cafe's fried chicken is the best stuff ever, soaked in buttermilk and then dredged in seasoned flour, which wrinkles and crisps in the pan, protecting the moisture inside from frying away.
The Purple Plum
4228 Park Blvd., Oakland, 510-336-0990