Clara's Kitchen Serves Up Made From Scratch Soul Food
You can find Clara’s Kitchen cranking out soul food from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. every Friday and Saturday night from inside a quaint pink house at 511 Robertson St. They recently expanded their hours to be open from 12 to 8 p.m. on Sundays, so not just the night owls get to enjoy this local treasure.
When you enter through the screen door, you are welcomed by the delicious smells, animated conversations and the sounds of football coming from the television in the corner. The house has been a restaurant of some form since the 1950s, including the pay-what-you-can concept Dorothy’s Kitchen, and the interior structure of the building hasn’t changed much since then. You can grab a seat at the half top bar on one of the bar stools still standing from the original construction. Though the building has seen several different occupants, Clara’s Kitchen is set on growing some deep roots.
Tammy Bradley was kind enough to take her apron off and put down her order pad to discuss how Clara’s Kitchen came to be.
“My better half. It was his dream to have a restaurant, to get him to where his dream is coming to life. So we went ahead and started it,” Bradley said.
Bradley said the building was here before there was segregation - when the entire county of Denton went to Fred Moore school.
“This was the only place Black people could come and eat in the 50s,” Bradley said. Not only do we want it to be here for a long time to come, to keep the feel of that memory of having a place to go and celebrate with the community, to let is legacy to continue.”
Bradley and her partner, Manuel Gooden, are “bringing business back to South East Denton, bringing something positive back to this area.”
Gooden lights up talking about his dream of owning a restaurant.
“Well, I love eating, so I love cooking,” Gooden said. “My mom always cooked a lot and fed the whole neighborhood.”
On par with his mother, Clara’s Kitchen has been doing its part in feeding the community as well.
On Thanksgiving and Christmas Day this past year, the restaurant opened their doors and, with the help of volunteers, served well over 100 meals each day to homeless and elderly folks. Via simple word of mouth, the message made its way to those who needed to know.
“It’s the ability to give back, to give back and see someone smile,” Bradley said.
Time for the Food
There are two different menus, one for Friday and Saturday, and a separate menu for Sunday. The Sunday menu features single to triple meat plates with the protein options of fried catfish, meatloaf, pork or beef neck-bones and a smothered pork chop. The home-style sides to choose from include cabbage, greens, corn, mac and cheese, candied yams, mash potatoes and red beans. The portions are large and to be somewhat biased, it’s some damn good food.
“Everything is made from scratch, homemade, except the ketchup, for now,” Bradley said.
The fish is fried to order and the cornmeal mix used for the breading is full of seasoning, giving the fish a golden crunchy crust. The made from scratch tartar sauce compliments the brininess of the fish perfectly with a tang of dill and a creamy texture.
The meatloaf is hearty and absolutely the best I’ve ever had (sorry grandma), with the tomato sauce on top. The perfect mix of flavorful ingredients will leave you salivating for another bite. The mac and cheese has a golden crust and plenty of glorious, creamy cheese covering classic shell pasta and the candied yams are savory, sweet and the perfect compliment to any of their menu offerings.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make the late night hours to check out the menu that has people pouring in the door from 10 p.m. to close, but the offerings sound just as delicious.
You can treat yourself to BBQ ribs, sausage links, catfish, chicken wings or a limited edition burrito served as a basket with in-house cut potato fries or as a plate with baked beans and that ooey gooey mac and cheese. No matter your pick, you’ll be loaded up with a drink, some bread, and a sauce to round out your meal. The off menu feature is chicken tenders tossed in waffle batter, honey glazed, with a side of syrup that comes with fries and jalapeños. Sounds good enough to stay up past your bedtime for.
If you haven’t put another hole in your belt yet, grab one of their made from scratch cake slices featuring German chocolate cake and red velvet. If you’re really lucky, they may even have banana pudding.
And word of mouth is spreading. While The Dentonite was talking with Bradley, someone came in to place an order to go. They had just been at a friends house and saw a plate they had picked up from Clara’s and just had to know where they got it from and get some for themselves.
You can follow Clara’s Kitchen on Facebook to keep up with hours and new menu items.
Images by Andrew Gamba
Header Image Designed by Kylie Phillips