Having grown up in Birmingham, Ala., minutes from Fried Green Tomatoes' Whistle Stop Café, I ate my fair share of fried chicken and pork-seasoned greens and drank plenty of sweet tea. Courtesy of our local Piggly Wiggly deli, these were staples of social gatherings and busy school-night dinners over the years.
Since coming here more than a decade ago, I haven't missed the cuisine much. But when I get a rare taste of it done right, such as during recent visits to seven-month-old Sweet Georgia Brown's, I can say I'm vulnerable to a certain uncontrolled nostalgia. The definition of comfort food, I'm aware.
Hidden behind a 7-Eleven off B Street, just outside Fort Carson, SGB's brings troops a needed taste of home, too. Owner Mieke Brown is its highly spirited face. Her loud laughter spills from the kitchen with the thick scent of frying oil. In the stark, five-table dining room — otherwise held captive by hypnotically wit-dimming court television shows beaming from a corner — Mieke tells gesture-abundant stories if prompted.
Her husband, Randy, is one of eight Brown children (who did have an Aunt Georgia). Randy and Mieke operated SGB's first incarnation off 31st Street and Colorado Avenue in the late '90s. Brother Joe turned that into Sir Joe's briefly in 2000, and then brother Will also ran a SGB's off Chelton Road for four years.
This new effort shows influence from across the playfully competitive family, Mieke says. SGB's simple menu features 10 generously portioned staple entres ($4.99 to $9.99) that come with one or two of 10 more side items, depending on how you order. (They're all $1.99 la carte, save for the $2.49 collard greens and gumbo that runs $4.99 to $7.99.)
Both the deep-fried catfish and smoked barbecue ribs make excellent choices, paired with fried cabbage, collards and two orders of fried okra. Yes, it's two-order good, perfectly crisp and non-gooey on the inside. The soupy greens aren't at all bitter and the cabbage, finished to a pleasant al dente texture, benefits from sauted onions and a thin strip of pork.
Mieke confesses to using store-bought Cattlemen's Barbecue Sauce on the tender and sizable ribs, and they're so tasty I couldn't care less. Dash the finely breaded and delicious catfish with Tabasco instead of what tastes like a more generic-tasting store-bought tartar sauce.
There's nothing wrong with the no-frills, tomato-paste-rich, Southern-style meatloaf, but it doesn't shine like the others. Same goes for additional side items I tried, like the mac and cheese, potato salad and red beans and rice, all of which recall a grocery deli.
Both the finely breaded fried chicken breast and the slightly spicy hot link sandwich on a buttery, toasted bun fill you up just fine. I plan to return for gumbo, only made on really cold days.
SGB's lemonade beats its too-sweet sweet tea (each $1.99). As for desserts, moist lemon cake and chocolate cake pieces ($1.99 each) and a syrup-dominant canned-peach cobbler with fluffy dough strips ($3.99) are decent. But the chunky, holiday-spiced sweet potato pie ($4.99) is a go-for dish.
And regardless of where you're from, the best selections here will make you want to whistle. May I suggest the Harlem Globetrotters' theme song, "Sweet Georgia Brown"?