You can't visit this new Harlem transplant without trying the waffles
It’s been a long time coming.
Chef Carl Redding has finally arrived in Atlantic City.
After nearly six months of endless construction, Redding’s Restaurant on Pacific Avenue opened its doors two weeks ago.
We visited last Saturday and found food worthy of the chef’s street-cred rep, combined with the understandable minor missteps typical of embryionic weeks in any new restaurant venture.
Start with the good stuff: Redding’s — famous for its unique southern cuisine — brings a ray of hope and promise to a long-blighted urban neighborhood. For that alone they deserve the highest praise.
Observed at dusk, the warm, wood-decorated interiors glow like a friendly lighthouse beacon down a dubious section of Pacific Avenue.
Staffers were enthusiastic and welcoming. Shortly after being seated we received a basket of soulful corn-bread muffins. Like a microcosm of Redding’s career, these were warm, substantial and just the right touch. (Also evidently, fresh made; a management representative informed us that the kitchen was busily baking batches just as we arrived.)
The lengthy menu had been pared down for the purposes of a smoother opening, which makes good business sense. Appetizers, soups and a few sides were unavailable. This only ensures we will return to sample them soon.
Once those difficulties were ironed out, our platters arrived with lightning speed.
First and foremost, you can’t visit Redding’s and not try the waffles.
They are both the initial items your eye encounters on their bill of fare and a signature speciality.
We went with the version named for Redding’s former employer, the Reverend Al Sharpton. We’ve been daydreaming about this classic combo of fried chicken and waffles since reporting on plans to open here early last spring.
Opting for poultry smothered in gravy, it arrived on a separate plate. The waffle itself was special enough, a heartier, savory variant of the typical breakfast treat. This worked wonders with the chicken, battered expertly and prepared with care. People who don’t understand great fry technique should sample Redding’s chicken to see just how elevated cooking via this ancient method can become in the right hands.
A similar preparation was evident in fish and chips, whiting accompanied by hand-cut steak fries. The fish was fresh and a bit salty, just the way we like it. Accompanied by two sides, she chose the grits — stone ground corn from Tallulah Point, Ga. — and sweet potato souffle.
The former were creamy but light, with a airy quality resembling fine cake. The latter was chunky, texturally pleasing, with layers of dark, intricate sweetness, which we’d guess resulted from the addition of molasses to the mix?
My selection was described as Kansas-style spare ribs. This generally means two things: dry-rubbed cooking and a sauce whose flavor profile tilts toward the sweet and smoky.
Redding’s ribs delivered on all those promises, although a couple of them would have benefitted from another hour or so of slow cookery. Either way they were huge and deviously delicious. The inevitable result was wearing a coating of their sticky sauce on my hands, face and clothing by meal’s end.
My sides, five green stew and mac and cheese, might have been the night’s biggest hits.
The greens, a blend of collard, turnip, cabbage, kale and mustard, were among the best we’ve ever encountered. Mac and cheese was baked golden, crusty, crunchy and not too heavy with cheese.
Three friends born and raised in Atlantic City have teamed up to present an event called the Comedy 4 Peace Laugh Out Loud Jam — a show not just designed to lift local spirits in tough times for an affordable cost, but to help revive the same sense of camaraderie in a community that their longstanding friendship may best reflect.
I've tasted IHop's new [chicken and waffles] dish and they're missing the key ingredient — soul! Eating chicken and waffles at IHOP is like eating a Philly cheesesteak in Montana. It's not even close." See photos and video...
As the late Atlantic City historian and former Club Harlem house band drummer Sid Trusty once said, "Every night was our party. And we invited the world." The party may be starting up again soon.
Plus new DrewToonz cartoon, Sean Rowe and his Anti- label debut 'Magic,' and jazz series to debut at Redding's restaurant in Atlantic City in February.
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