Beans and Cornbread

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patrick1 - 300 dpiPatrick Coleman will never forget Sunday dinners at his grandmother’s house, when she brought out her best china and cutlery to serve the family all manner of comforting, Southern-style specialties.

Coleman aims to replicate some of those happy times at his Beans and Cornbread Soulful Bistro, open since 1997 in Southfield. The cozy room, decorated in warm tones, displays portraits of African American history and memorabilia, along with black-and-white photographs of jazz musicians. Coleman says, “It reminds me of my grandmother’s dining room.”

In addition, there’s the sleek and casual Side Bar and a 50-seat Red Velvet banquet room.

With Beans and Cornbread, Coleman’s intent was to “take my background in fine dining and pair it with the food I saw my grandmother and my mom prepare. I just wanted to give their Southern cooking a more epicurean and healthier spin.”

Coleman’s experience in restaurant management includes working for Unique Restaurant Group and managing Big Fish in Dearborn for C.A. Muer Corp. and Forte in Birmingham for Epoch Restaurant Group.

He relies on Executive Chef John Arnold and able assistants to keep Beans and Cornbread going strong because “when it comes to running a kitchen, I’d be like a (cat)fish out of water.”

Coleman strategically located his restaurant in Sunset Strip on Northwestern Highway, a largely black and Jewish area that’s close to Franklin Village. With 42 percent of his customers not African American, Coleman correctly predicted that other ethnic groups and nationalities would appreciate “the only cuisine indigenous to the United States.”

I enjoyed eating light-battered, not greasy, fried chicken — one of the restaurant’s three most popular entrees, along with fresh salmon croquettes and farm-raised catfish. The chicken parts are seasoned simply with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, and then dredged in flour and deep-fried in 100 percent vegetable oil.
“That’s the healthiest way to fry, without trans fats, and so important with the incidence of heart disease and diabetes,” says Coleman. “I want our food to be the healthiest it can be.

“We also do some wonderful comfort items, like old-fashioned meatloaf with mashed potatoes and skillet gravy,” he adds.

Another standout is Louisiana Gumbo Salmon. The Cajun-spiced grilled salmon filet served over a bed of rice is topped with the restaurant’s award-winning gumbo. It has a great, spicy flavor.

The lunch menu offers more than 10 items priced at $6.99. When it comes to the vegetarian Sloppy Joe, “you’d swear you’re eating ground beef, but it’s made with crumbled soy and garnished with pickles and sauteed onions,” Coleman says.

A soul food restaurant is always measured by its sides. Beans and Cornbread’s lengthy list of side plates includes red beans and rice, Michigan-grown collard greens (flavored with smoked turkey), candied sweet potatoes, pasta salad, green beans, fried okra and Hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas and rice). I tried country corn with bits of colorful peppers and baked macaroni and cheese. Yum! Those were my sides when I ordered a delicious New York strip steak, topped with caramelized onions and grilled mushrooms.

Traditional items are served a different way with the Harlem Burrito. Collard greens, tomatoes, black-eyed peas and rice are rolled in a grilled flour tortilla and served with Spanish Harlem salsa. The most popular desserts are peach cobbler and sweet potato pie.

Beans and Cornbread, featured on Food Network, was a 2012 Soul Food finalist for Steve Harvey’s Hoodie Award and recognized multiple times for best Southern cooking by Metro Times and Hour Detroit. In 2009, Rachael Ray’s magazine said the sweet potato muffins here are “addictive.” I agree!

Worth noting: friendly but leisurely service, open daily and early dinner specials ($11) from 4-7 p.m. weekdays. Sheila Landis, a jazz and R&B singer, adds flavor to Sunday brunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., for $12.95.

Beans and Cornbread
29508 Northwestern Hwy.
Southfield, MI 48034
(248) 208-1680
www.beanscornbread.com
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