First Look: Smothered Pork Chops at Tha Neighborhood Kitchen Will Change Your Life | Dallas Observer

First Look

Tha Neighborhood Kitchen in Joppa Puts All Other Home Cooking to Absolute Shame

Oxtail with sweet sweet potatoes.
Oxtail with sweet sweet potatoes. Lauren Drewes Daniels
Katrina Chaney has a long history in the food and beverage business. She spent 15 years at food service company Aramark and has helped in kitchens all her life, beginning with her grandmother's when she was just four years old.

Last year she opened what she calls her "latest project," in the freedman's town of Joppa in southern Dallas, near Interstate 45 and Loop 12. Tha Neighborhood Kitchen is a small, immaculate restaurant in one of the only structures that's not a home or church in the old neighborhood. There's a TV on the wall and a couple of chairs to use while customers wait. It's takeout only, which is almost cruel: It's painful to see and smell the display of food behind the glass and not be able to dig in immediately.

Patience. Just be patient. Find a place to have a parking lot meal. We made it to a downtown brewery within 10 minutes. (There's only a small parking lot out front and it felt greedy to not let other people pull up.)

But before we get into leaving, let's get into why you should go.

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Unless you want a fried basket, like catfish, order here. The oxtail (front right) is perfect, as is the mac and cheese next to it.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
Food is spread out along a heated banquet behind a glass partition on the other side of the counter. Pick a main — there are usually four on offer each day — and two sides. Each meal also comes with a big square of cornbread.

Chicken tetrazzini and baked chicken were two options, and both were hard to ignore. But the oxtail looked too good to pass up, with its tender chunks barely hanging on to the bone. Be sure to get rice on the bottom (it's free), as it soaks up the gravy. And also say yes to the extra gravy. A side of sweet potatoes were whipped, light and as sweet as Kool-Aid. While corn can't really compete with the oxtail and sweet potatoes, it's seasoned well and is crisp.

The oxtail plate with two sides is $25. The amount of food is two meals if you're a delicate to mild-mannered eater. Or one big meal and a nap otherwise.
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Fried and smothered pork chops with macaroni and cheese.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
As good as the oxtail was, there's something else here that's even better: the smothered pork chops. These were the best pork chops either of us has ever had. Even though these are billed as "smothered," the crisp crust encasing each thick chop is perfectly seasoned. Two big chops come to a plate topped with thick slices of onion and a light brown gravy; it was nothing heavy and chalky, but an almost-clear broth brown gravy. Again, say "yes and thank you" to the rice and extra gravy, then let it soak up.

Mom never made pork chops like these. Had she, things might be different. Not sure how different, but different.

For the sides on this plate, we got perfect macaroni and cheese with, again, a vegetable that didn't really stand a chance with everything else, but the green beans were well-seasoned and fresh. The smothered pork chop plate was $17.49. Other dishes, like the chicken tetrazzini, are $14.99.
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Tha Neighborhood Kitchen is tiny but mighty.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
When we go back, we'll probably try different mains (chicken and dumplings) because we've got a hunch it's all good. And we'll definitely always get the macaroni and cheese, and then rotate through the other sides. There were no misses here other than having to wait to get somewhere to eat.

The daily menu, posted on a whiteboard, says that oxtails are available only on Sundays, but we got ours on a Saturday. There's also a note that fried baskets, which are made to order, take 15 minutes to prepare, so be ready for that.

Party tip: Don't let your to-go containers tip on the ride home. You'll spill gravy, and that's gravy murder.

Tha Neighborhood Kitchen is closed on Monday and Tuesday, but opens at 11 a.m. every other day of the week. It's open through 6 p.m. except for Sunday, when it closes at 5 p.m. Sometimes the daily menu is posted on Facebook, if you want to do a little scouting before heading over.

Tha Neighborhood Kitchen, 4705 Yancy St. Wednesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. –5 p.m.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.

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