When Microsoft mogul Paul Allen serves your food in his private jet, it says something about your restaurant. When money is no concern, Mr. Allen is still calling on Tacoma’s Southern Kitchen, where breakfast plates remain $4.95. As the cool as a cucumber proprietor John (he always goes by his first name) likes to say: “Mr. Allen likes this kinda food.”
Finally, something a billionaire and an auto mechanic have in common. All items are cooked to order and never under lights at Southern Kitchen. The fried green tomatoes are “off-the-chiznain” as John puts it. And he ain’t lying. He describes the butterfish as “slammin” and always +recommends a mango lemonade in a tall mason jar with whipped cream.
The countertop seating and tightly arranged tables with colorful floral tablecloths feel like a slice of the Deep South. The posters on the wall from Guy Fieri to E-40, and a cast-iron stove in the corner make even the most busy dinner rush feel relaxed.
“We sell more than Kentucky Fried, and we cheaper,” John tells us about his cuisine. We always order more than we can eat and take something home for our loved ones. When we explained we wanted to feature his spot in the Munchin Around section of our PDA: Hempfest issue, he responded with a wink and said “they need better food at Hempfest, tell them to call me.”
John knows the Tacoma dining landscape as well as anyone, Southern Kitchen has been open 30 years and John has run it for 15 since buying it from the original proprietor Leslie Smith who has since passed away. He tells us about a hidden gem that few know about, the basement cafeteria at Tacoma Light (officially called Tacoma Public Utilities or TPU).
“They take all your money at the light company, so they feed ya real good,” John points out, he’s a fan of the breakfasts.
As we box up the rest of the Chicken Fried Steak and Mac & Cheese a phone rings with a particularly loud ringtone. It’s one of the customers, who John obviously knows well. “Turn that loud phone off man, what are you a fireman?” he kids. An owner that holds court, knows the customers and is never too busy to show face is a rare thing these days. John has an appointment he has to get to and steps out front into his two-tone Kia Amanti on perfectly-shined rims, he’s off in a blink down Division Ave.
This is why 4E loves Tacoma. It’s nothing if it’s not real.
1716 6th Avenue
Tacoma, WA 98107