When someone mentions Carrollton, culinary-wise, the first thing that probably comes to mind is Korea Town. But located off Hebron Parkway is a hidden gem for soul food lovers alike: Ms. Mary’s Southern Kitchen, a spot that’s been giving folks a taste of home without having to make the drive to South Dallas.
“Ms. Mary’s has been in existence since 2002,” says chef-owner Mary Davis. “This is actually our third location. It’ll be three years in January since we’ve been off Hebron. I’ve been in (the) area awhile because I worked at Xerox for 20 years. This is a busy street, but if you’re not out there, people don’t know you exist. It’s like a pocket in the middle of Lewisville, Coppell, Flower Mound, Grapevine, and I really want people to know we have a Southern restaurant north of the Dallas area.”
And while a lot of people may boast about the crowds they bring in far and wide, Davis is focused on feeding people around the corner.
“There are a lot of African American people in this area,” Davis says. “Professionals, white-collar, blue-collar. But they kept telling me they have to go south just to get Southern food. That’s why it was important for us to be close to Highway 121.”
Another important element, aside from location, is representation. While there’s myriad Southern-style restaurants in DFW, only a handful are black-owned.
“You have to wonder why,” Davis says. “This is our food, so why don’t we have a lot of restaurants like this around? You even see it on television. You mainly see white male chefs and you go wait a minute, how you gone tell us how to fix macaroni and cheese and greens?
“These are items we’re known for in our culture," she says. "So, it makes people feel proud when they come to our restaurant. It makes them feel like they’re a part of it.”
Speaking of mac and cheese and greens, those are just a couple of the staples Davis says are musts on the menu of any soul food spot — especially hers.
“You always gotta have yams (or sweet potatoes, depending on where you’re from)," she says. "People come in ask for the pork chops. It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is. We make them six different ways. We do oxtails, hot water cornbread. People call in and ask, what’s the special of the day? And it’s something that came out of our family cookbook."
And for dessert?
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“For us, it’s bread pudding. We make it with bourbon or rum sauce," she says.
And as optimistic as Davis is about her restaurant and serving up Southern comfort, you can tell she’s even more driven to make sure black women in the kitchen are getting their just due.
“There’s always an African American woman behind the scenes," she says. "We may not get the credit for it, but it’s the behind-the-scenes people that are really making it happen. For many years, our people were so kind and open and loving, they just gave away recipes and showed people how to make them. They weren’t thinking about money, they just felt the love was there and enjoyed cooking, so they shared it with you. And somebody took it and ran with it and opened a restaurant.”
Ms. Mary’s Southern Kitchen, 1500 W. Hebron Pkwy., Carrollton