Biscuits and Gravy and Po Boys: We Love Southern Love in Kaka‘ako
Real home-style cooking comes to the heart of Kaka‘ako.
I’ve never seen anything like it: Corey Love opened the doors of his new Southern Love restaurant in Kaka‘ako without any announcement a few weeks ago and has been increasingly busy ever since.
On his first day, people saw that the place was open, and a steady stream of customers flowed in as Love figured out his workflow. Word spread, and fans of home-style Southern fare have been flocking to the hole-in-the-wall in the former Islander Sake space for brunch and dinner.
Love grew up in Georgia and knows a thing or two about Southern cuisine. Some of you may already know him from his time at Pint & Jigger and Rock Bottom. The flavors of his food are on point, and his techniques are his—his baked beans are vegan, and his honey cornbread is so moist and dense, it’s almost like bread pudding (but with a lovely crunchy top). The crazy thing, though, is that Love is pescatarian, so he doesn’t eat half the food he cooks!
“I just season my cooking until my ancestors tell me to stop,” he says.
Only people reading this blog will know that little secret. The last time I was there, a man from Louisiana said the food made him feel like he was home, and a family visiting from Chicago said it was the best food they’d had in Hawai‘i all week.
Go early, as he sells out every day. At brunch, the most popular item is the biscuits and gravy with fried chicken ($16; you can order without chicken for $14, but why?). The biscuits are layered, moist and flaky, and although the fried chicken is juicy enough, you will want to smother every bite in the savory country gravy.
Shrimp and grits ($16) are also a good brunch choice. I was surprised that the grits are so smooth and creamy, but that’s from cooking them for 30 minutes. The fresh, plump shrimp are covered in Love’s Cajun shrimp cream sauce, making them way too easy to eat. I scrape the bowl clean shamelessly.
The chicken and waffles ($15) are also worth a try, as his version includes garlic chicken and maple syrup. The combination of garlic, sweet and savory is a surprise, but it works.
At dinner, my personal favorite is the BBQ ribs plate ($22). Love bakes these ribs for 3.5 hours until they’re almost fall-off-the-bone. He then flash-fries them, which tightens them up a little bit, and tosses them in his secret sauce. I keep trying to put my rib down to try something else, but I can’t.
The catfish ($20) is flown in directly from Louisiana and is so moist you will probably want to eat it with a spoon. I like each bite with a dash of Louisiana hot sauce.
I’m also a fan of the buttermilk fried chicken drumsticks ($16.50), which are crisp and succulent. I plan to save a drumstick for later but end up cleaning the plate.
You can get the shrimp po boy sandwich anytime ($14 lunch/$15.50 dinner) with Love’s signature Southern remoulade. Everything in it is so fresh—veggies, shrimp, bread—that it all just pops in your mouth.
You get a free side with each dinner entrée: mac and cheese, cabbage (seasoned and sautéed), baked beans or tossed salad as well as a slice of that magical honey cornbread. You can opt to get any extra for $5. Don’t forget to get some sweet tea for the full experience!
Just a side note: You should allot some extra time when you plan to eat here or even order take out. Love does everything himself, including order-taking, cooking, bussing and cashiering. If he gets extra busy, he calls in his friend LeeAnn Love (no relation), but he still has to cook.
There are only four parking stalls in front of the restaurant, so prepare to find street parking nearby. Southern Love is BYOB for now.
Open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 3 to 8 p.m., 753 Queen St., (808) 762-0223, @southernlovehawaii