Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Lil Cees – 10.29.08
What happens when you arrive at the letter L, wonder where to eat lunch AND aren’t really in the mood for Mexican food? You freak out, that’s what. And frantically scour the phone book + internet for the most obscure restaurant possible that doesn’t start with La, Las or Los. Not an easy task, friends. But it is possible. And the possibility that emerged was a little-known-to-us East Nashville soul food eatery on Douglas Street named Lil Cee’s. And here is the verdict…
I really liked Lil’ Cee’s! Not because it was in a swanky building in a primetime location, not because a fancy menu, not because it was it was the most perfect dining experience ever. I liked it because it was REAL. That was their X factor. It trumped the fact that it wasn’t the cleanest place in the world (health score of 82...not bad...not great)...that they didn’t have the first 2 things I tried to order off the menu...and that the soft drinks were paid for at the register and then bought out of a pop machine (weird). None of that was a concern of mine...because as I was sitting in there watching the steady line of neighbors coming in to eat...it hit me that Lil Cee is making good food for the people that he lives and works with. That’s a pretty great thing! I got the baked chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans w/ fried cornbread. The chicken had a great flavor, as did the green beans (it tasted like there may have been some brown sugar in there). The fried cornbread was pretty awesome too...it was basically a cornbread donut...which isn’t a bad thing in my opinion. Overall...if I found myself in that part of Nashville during lunch hour again...I’d go back.
I was in the mood for some comfort food and I must say, Lil Cee's was surprisingly comforting. The meatloaf and mashed potatoes were fresh and flavorful, and the portions were quite generous for the price... a great value. Although the building looks a little run-down, the tables and chairs were very clean. The owner was real friendly and made us all feel welcome.
This is the kinda place that I like to pull up to. An unassuming, gray cinderblock exterior that houses who-knows-what-kind-of-food on the inside. We walked in the door to find run-of-the-mill interior, BET blaring on the TV overhead and a small but eager line of folks moving down the steam table to get their grub on. This place is not unlike a place like Monell’s Express on 8th Ave South as far as the low-rent vibe goes, but much better food. Lil Cee’s employees were of the friendly but no-nonsense sort and the owner and/or manager made note that we were evidentially not regulars and asked how we found the place. (The phone book, said we.)
I ordered the fried chicken, red beans and turnip greens, all of which were good. Not mind blowing, not lousy, but good. Solid. I also ordered the grape drink out of one of those convenience mart type juice fountains. It seemed appropriate for my meal somehow. So while everything was good and tasty, there one was super-great part of my meal. The hot water cornbread! This freakin’ cornbread rocked my world and was the second best I’ve ever tasted (first place goes to Nero’s Grill’s famous corn cakes in Green Hills..). Lil Cee’s does cornbread RIGHT. High-five, thumbs up, five stars.