My youngest’s kindergarten teacher from a few years back sent us a note the other day. It was announcing that her cousin was opening a “healthy” soul food restaurant in town. Joey asked what is “soul food“? It took a bit of discussion to bring him back before MLK to explain that the blacks in this country didn’t always have access to the top quality ingredients when they were first freed in the south. They did however use a lot of ingenuity and creativity to make incredibly tasty and filling food with what they could find. Soul food is their comfort food that they have shared with us.
Last night we loaded up the car and headed over to Gholar’s Soul Food here in Monrovia. What a treat. I got to talk with owner Anita Gholar. She let me know that all the recipes with the exception of the Honey BBQ sauce, belonged to her grandmother that she learned to prepare when she was a child. Anita has finished a Culinary Art’s program and with those tools she has reinvented her families heritage recipes and made them healthier.
Healthier in that she has significantly reduced the salt and substituted in more fresh spices and herbs. Most Pork along with pork based fats and lard have been eliminated substituted for healthier fats. And then fats are nearly eliminated where possible. Anita said she worked very hard keeping the texture and taste of the family recipes while making them healthy, my two cents says she excelled.
Gholar’s Soul Food is your classic hole in the wall tucked into a corner at the entrance of the House of Spirits at the corner of Duarte Road and Mayflower in Monrovia. MAP HERE. It has about a half dozen tables with simple white cloths ready for you in case you want to eat in. When you enter you are greeted with Anita’s smile and the aroma’s of her cooking.
Anita has a simple menu in place, Honey BBQ Ribs, lemon or BBQ Rotisserie Chiken or Fish and Chips. Dinners top out at $9.95 that includes enough entree for another day and 3 great sides.
My kids all opted for the Rotisserie Chicken and raved the entire time about how it was the best chicken they ever had. Not being a chicken fan I did grab a fork full and found it pretty good. I opted for the Ribs…OMG she is going to kick a few peoples butt into the ground with that entree alone. Sweet jeebus she had to wiggle and worm the recipe out of her uncle for years and the stuff is just awesome. The sauce is a deep, deep red sticky vinegary sweet sauce very typical of what I had in the Ozarks while I was in high school.
The surprise treat in the package was “the roll”. I was expecting a traditional corn bread muffin or yeast roll. It was neither. It was a very light golden yellow muffin that defies description on how light it was. Joey looked at me and popped out with “I could make this my last meal. I like the hint of vanilla”, then grabbed everyone elses muffin and gave it a lick to ensure he got them all. (I need to work on his table manners a bit, but he is only 10 so I give a few points for creativity). I found out she calls them “Cornbread cake muffins” and almost didn’t put them on the menu. Anita…you have to make those a regular by the dozen take home option…they are THAT good.
This is Anita’s first venture here in town and plans to move up into Old Town as she gains a following. I don’t think she’ll be long at this location given the popularity she has achieved in the 5 days she has been open. She now has several people lined up at opening every day, lunch is starting at 11AM. We arrived just before 6PM and the tables were full and a couple of customers behind us.
The details: Gholars Soul Food, 501 W. Duarte Road, Monrovia CA 91016 626-831-1192. Gholar’s is open Monday thorugh Saturday 10AM – 8PM and Sundays 10AM to 7PM.
All pics by me and get bigger with a quick click.