While perusing Yelp’s page for M & M Soul Food, I stumbled upon the review that might render this entire entry unnecessary.
“M and M’s is the truth.” Since I was first introduced to this Los Angeles chain of soul food restaurants by my comrade Zakhar, I’ve held these words to be self-evident. For the aficionado of Southern cooking, M & M is a kind of Mecca. The most pious of chowhounds may find the strength in their hearts to make it out for a regular meal between office hours, but for most laymen, even myself, a trip to M & M Soul food is a sacred pilgrimage that can happen only once or twice a year. Of course, those able-bodied Angelenos who fail to make the journey to M & M at least once in the full course of their lives will be punished for it in the Hereafter- such is the will of true devotion.
That said, two weeks ago El Ultimo, the Mathemagician and I made a most spiritual expedition to this inconspicuous shrine of deep fried salvation to mark El Ultimo’s departure from Babylon. I have yet to face a more holistic array of comfort food on this side of the Mississippi than the lunch special at M & M (nor have I ever been audience to a more kingly bottle of Red Rooster Louisiana hot sauce than the one at Vinni Mac’s table at the M & M restaurant on Centinela). Tuesday through Friday, between 11AM and 2PM, meals are served for a trifling $7.99. All pillars of the truth are represented, from gravy smothered fried chicken to liver and onions to a full plate of chitterlings. The sides, so often a weak link in the business of home cooking, present themselves with the grace of butter and hambones. And, as if granting a taste of the rapture, sweet tea is free.
The Mathemagician, on his first visit to the holy land, ordered the meat loaf. Smothered in rich brown gravy and ready to melt away at first bite, this living document of Americana’s underbelly is a robust yet delicate mantle piece of the dinner table that calls to mind the historic ad campaigns of Stove Top Stuffing. Alongside the flanks of reconstituted soul lay hearty servings of buttered corn and homemade mac n cheese, which he could only explain with the gospel: “This mac n cheese is RIGHT!”
I decided on the fried catfish, a gritty masterpiece of Southern seafood with enough flavor to dry up the Red Sea. The breading, bonded to the filet as if catfish were born with cornbread scales, creates a perfect seal without a trace of grease, locking what may once have been a health-conscious choice in a lightning bolt of blood pressure (in my flock, we refer to this as “intelligent design”). Cradling my entrée was the bedrock of M & M’s side menu: red beans and rice. Positively denying the existence of vegetarianism, this is the only instance of red beans and rice I’ve ever experienced that includes both sliced franks and shards of pork bone. Even when I’m in the mood for okra or succotash, I cannot relinquish the spot of this peppery wonder, which is only two slices of bacon away from constituting its own breakfast.
El Ultimo, ever dutiful, received the fried pork chops. The zenith of the Southern kitchen, this double dose of divinity is impeccably represented at Vinni Mac’s. A bit lighter than the impermeable breaded armor of the catfish, the crust enveloping the pork chops is a delicacy of crisp, seasoned flour forming an uneven blanket of crumbs around meat and bone. The mid-sized cuts of pork within are juicier than the Old Testament. Though smaller than the unprecedented servings of fried chicken offered at M & M, the chops, with all the savory powers of Earth’s most tyrannical domesticated animal, trounce their poultry competition as the more satisfying fry. Accompanying them were the most buttery candied yams to bless a plastic dish. While not as sweet as some might prefer, the simple richness and effortlessly smooth texture of M & M’s yams cleanse the palate with a gentle reminder that consumption itself is truly a miracle.
Having completed our communion with the spirit of the South, we sat for a few moments to regain mobility and ruminate on our celestial status. If to know the truth is to know the self, and to know the self is to know the Mecca, then M & M Soul Food must surely be the answer to all confusion. As our pilgrimage came to a close, we could only hope that time wouldn’t make Soul Survivors of us before Judgment Day.
Vinni Mac’s M & M Soul Food
5496 W. Centinela Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90045