Welcome back to Dining On A Dime a bi-weekly feature in which Lizbeth Scordo surveys LA's cheap eats—often obscure, ethnic, unsung restaurants—proving that dining on a dime is alive, well, and quite tasty in this here city. Where do you think she should go next? Drop us a line.
The Serving Spoon, an eatery that takes up a good chunk of a yellow, L-shaped strip mall in Inglewood, is jam-packed the Sunday morning my husband and I arrive. Apparently, it's always like this on the weekends and the place means business. A sign posted on the host stand warns that your entire party must be VISIBLY present or you WILL NOT be seated. We pass the time out in the parking lot with other visibly present diners-in-waiting — families with young children, older couples dressed in church attire, teenagers in college sweatshirts —and as the wait inches towards half an hour, I begin to wonder if it's worth it. Looking back now, after having one of the best breakfasts I've had in years, I can't believe I ever entertained the thought of leaving. When I put our name down for a table, I mention we'd be fine sitting at the low-slung counter too. And, despite the fact all those vinyl booths look comfy, I'm so glad the counter is where we end up. Once the rest of the customers sitting here find out we're first-timers, we get a slew of recommendations within seconds. Get the catfish. Get the chicken sausage. Get the waffles. Get the biscuits. They're all regulars at the 28-year-old restaurant and it suddenly feels like we are too. My husband talks football with a fellow Pittsburgh Steelers fan and later has the entire counter in hysterics when no one wants to explain to him what the day's special, Chittlins, actually are (that would be pig intestines). One guy claims to eat here every single day. Another woman tells us about the original owner, Harold, who handed the place down to his daughter. After we put in our drink orders (coffee and orange juice), our waitress, who's donning a "Got Spoon?" T-shirt like the rest of the staffers, mentions that The Serving Spoon gives out complimentary champagne on Sundays. Seriously? We add a little o.j. to our plastic flutes of Cook's champagne, and just like that, we've got instant mimosas to sip along to the R&B tunes blaring out of a stereo perched above us.
The Soul food-inspired menu is huge and leaves customers with lots of choices to make. Corn bread or biscuit? Hot or mild? Ham, hot links, bacon, or sausage? Grits, spoon potatoes, or rice? (Sliced tomatoes are also a possibility in place of the starch, but c'mon.) In addition to egg breakfasts accompanied by everything from pork chops to catfish to chicken wing drummettes, there are a slew of pancake and waffle combos too. As for lunch, a variety of burgers and sandwiches are available, and entrée offerings include a T-Bone steak, whole red snapper, and salmon croquettes. Daily specials rotate from baked chicken with gravy one day to meatloaf the next and all come with a choice of sides like collard greens, black eyed peas, corn, and candied yams.
Despite the fact I rarely (OK, never) eat deep-fried fish for breakfast, I decide to go for it and get the two-egg plate with a filet of catfish, grits, and cornbread. My husband orders the eggs with chicken sausage breakfast and strategically goes with the spoon potatoes and biscuit so we get even more variety.
Everything we try — and I do mean everything — is absolutely amazing, but the catfish is probably my favorite part of the meal. The thick-yet-airy golden breading flecked with hearty bits of black pepper and a hearty dash of salt is just perfect (think the best fried chicken breading you've ever had) and the fish is mild and moist. My creamy grits become even creamier once that pat of butter starts melting and the slice of corn bread, cut like a piece of pound cake, is just a touch sweet and a little crumbly. Though the spoon potatoes don't look all that different from diner home fries, the diced spuds are full of flavor and I love the tender-crisp bits of red and green bell peppers mixed in.
My husband's imperfect-looking, "mild" homemade chicken sausage patties are a touch spicy, and we devour the light buttermilk biscuit so quickly we can barely describe it. As for the scrambled eggs, while they're fluffy and good, they get a little lost in the shuffle thanks to the other much more exciting items we’ve got in front of us. When I'm too full to continue on, it's the poor eggs that get left behind.
After our plates are cleared, our newest counter neighbor, Joanna, implores us to stay put until her food arrives so we can try the waffles she'll be getting. We're stuffed. We couldn't possibly. Well, if she insists.
Surprise, surprise. They're delicious.
Breakfast items: $4.50 to $13.90
Lunch items: $5.70 to $14.95