Local Flavor - Carolina Kitchen Bar and Grill

Last night we stopped at the new Carolina Kitchen Bar and Grill in Hyattsville.

Sigh.

Kwiq revu: Average chain restaurant with typically disjointed design and cuisine. I felt like I was eating my entree from a relish tray (see photo). The waiter forgot our appetizer and in true chain fashion gave nothing but an apology and a promise to remove the item from our bill.

This Carolina Kitchen is a huge expansion over their Largo, MD and Silver Spring, MD origins as it is much larger and includes a bar. We missed the 5-7pm happy hour and ducked in for a quick meal on 'No-Cook Thursday' since my in-laws have been raving about the place.

The cuisine is typical 'soul' type food with a splash of seafood - a must-have in the DelMarVa area. The appetizer menu had "country favorites", "southern seafood", and "Rocky Mount Wings", but not many items that were not deep fried. We initially ordered calamari, but changed the order to cheese & bacon cajun fries because it just seemed so decadent. They never arrived.

Immediately after seating in what must be dubbed "the King Kong" room because of its decor (model planes, King Kong poster and black and white photographs - what does that have to do with country kitchen cooking?) we received a plate of extremely light cornbread. It was sweet cornbread - my yankee preference, and came drizzled with honey and butter. Mmmm good. Must be the first time I have eaten cornbread with a fork.

We received our drinks, iced tea and lemonade, very quickly. I was hoping for that down home, fresh squeezed taste, but had to settle for the mix. I must admit that when I emptied my glass, it was quickly refilled.

I ordered the vegetable plate that let you choose three sides and my husband ordered the Southern Fried Pork Chops, which come with rice pilaf and two sides. North Carolina transplant that he is, he thinks he can combat swine flu by eating more pork. No pig is safe.

If you are hungry, you will definitely leave here satiated. My spouse had two large chops smothered in gravy over rice with bowls of collard greens and macaroni & cheese. He was able to eat most of one chop, the rice and a bit of each of the sides. There seemed to be an entire meal left.

I had the greens and macaroni & cheese and black eye peas presented on a long plate. That felt really weird. It gave me the feeling that there were dozens of sides sitting under hot lamps waiting to be thrown onto waiting relish plates. I certainly hope not. Some work needs to be done on the veggie plate presentation.

Thankfully there was hot sauce on the table because the greens and peas were lighter on the seasoning side than I prefer. It was all steaming hot - the mac & cheese was creamy with an extra layer of cheddar melted over the bowl.

Meal and tip weighed in at $40 for two without alcoholic drinks or dessert, and of course minus the appetizer. This is average these days for this type of restaurant. Considering the type of food, it might be better served at home. This is not the place to visit if you are dieting or on food restrictions - the lure of fried foods is strong.

While this is not on my go-to list, we will probably re-visit because my in-laws love the place. For some reason, seniors love getting large amounts of food. However, I do think I will return on my own to check out the happy hour - $3.99 martinis & cocktails and $2.99 draught beers Monday through Friday. Maybe then I'll check out that old, traditional southern bar menu favorite - spicy thai chili wings.

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