Restaurant Review: The Soul of Southern Cooking in the North- Miss Delta

This review originally appeared in The Portland Sentinel.

As a longtime fan of the SE Woodstock eatery Delta Café and their succulent fried chicken I was excited to find out that the architects of that deliciousness had opened a new location right here in our hood. Nestled on the N. Mississippi strip near chic boutiques and wellness centers peddling yoga you will find a little piece of southern heaven called Miss Delta.

Where Delta Café (now in the hands of a new owner) definitely had a SE Portland feel- the vibe at Miss Delta is more Deep South with a Portland twist. The narrow but long space is framed by exposed brick, on which hangs a series of large photographs of apothecary bottles (superimposed with what looks like beehive watermarks) all of which has been hand-stained with beeswax by the artist, to give them a soft sepia tone.

The centerpiece of Miss Delta is the bar, wrapped in an aged, rusted sheet metal piece that showcases Portland’s bridges (St. Johns is the first you’ll see when you enter.) Lit by mismatched but stately chandeliers and filled with old black and white photographs, Miss Delta’s charm lies in the feelings of warmth that come from the décor, the down home food and the sassy sweet wait staff.

The menu kicks off its appetizers with such southern specialties as pan fried oysters ($10), sweet potato fries ($16), fried okra ($5), hush puppies ($4) and even a Caesar salad that you can add catfish to and although Miss Delta has plenty of alcoholic libations to whet your whistle, to really quench a thirst I recommend the 32 oz lemonade served in a wide mouthed mason jar.

Miss Delta’s food is kickin’ and the portions are king-sized. Scan the menu here and you realize that “light” or “diet plate” are not on the agenda and to this I say, “Hooray!” The main courses are hearty and soulful with such offerings as fried catfish, roasted chicken, ribs, blackened steak with bleu cheese, fried chicken, meatloaf, jambalaya, and gumbo.

All of these luscious wonders are served with your choice of two decadent sides: collard greens cooked in stewed pork and slivered onions (divine), red beans and rice (mild, but flavorful), black-eyed peas over rice, mashed potatoes and vegan gravy, and mac and cheese (sinfully good). On the night I went, they were also offering a special side of au gratin potatoes – which I happily took them up on and was not disappointed. These were not the fussy, upscale French au gratin you may be used to – Miss Delta’s has put the southern sling on these au gratin – they are thick-cut, skin-on, red potatoes, baptized in the golden glow of cheesy seasoned goodness – drippingly rich and saucy.

As I sat munching on juicy but crisply seasoned fried chicken and sampling delicately flavored but not over-battered catfish, served with a cocktail/horseradish dipping sauce, I found myself contentedly singing along to the likes of Tina Turner’s Nut Bush City Limits- the raw, soulful warbling of Ms. Turner accenting my experience and underscoring the beauty that is Miss Delta – its simplicity. The dishes here are stripped of over-complications – no one in the kitchen is trying to fuse anything or reinvent the wheel. What they are doing (and they are doing it well) is bringing Portland a little piece of down-home southern flair in an authentic way, that pays homage without parody or kitsch, fittingly, on Mississippi.