Bring your appetite. Actually, bring your fat pants. In a world where calorie counting and portion restriction and all the rest have become increasingly more common, it’s always refreshing to, at least occasionally, move in the exact opposite direction.
Enter The Carolina Kitchen, with its 3rd D.C.-area location now open next to the Rhode Island Metro, in the northeast outskirts of the city. The new spot is the only one located within the District itself though, with the original two establishments found in Hyattsville and Largo.
Owner and executive chef Lance London has put together a menu filled with down home, authentic southern fare, largely inspired by his grandmother. That’s why most of the restaurant’s entrees are found under the “Ma Pearl’s Specialties” section of the menu.
Ma Pearl liked to eat well, so it seems, and London makes sure that guests don’t leave hungry. He serves up piled-high plates offering a combination of both Cajun and Creole flavors and seasonings, and traditional southern-style comfort food.
Take the Creole Grilled Salmon, as an example. Salmon is always a great choice for the health-conscious amongst us, right? Well, here, a massive filet is served with a cream sauce, and topped with crab meat and grilled shrimp, over a massive mound of buttery mashed potatoes, and accompanied by two sides, collard greens, and one of the cheese-densest macaroni and cheeses you’ll find anywhere.
It’s all delicious, too — the salmon is cooked perfectly, you can’t help but continue eating the mac & cheese, and the mashed potatoes are packed with flavor — you’ll just find yourself in a battle of wits vs. waistline – how much can I eat at once?
There’s plenty more to choose from, and other highlights include succulent, slow-cooked BBQ baby back ribs, several varieties of chicken wings, firecracker shrimp, and southern-fried pork chops. If you’re truly coming prepared with your all-you-can-eat attitude though, try the Chesapeake Platter, served with fried lobster tails, mini crab cakes, fried shrimp, and chicken wings.
The fried lobster tails are a house specialty, and London manages to pull off a very fine line of breading and frying a huge lobster tail while retaining its tender juiciness and natural flavor within. You can also go country classic with fried okra, fried green tomatoes, chitterlings, or some fantastic house-made cornbread, coated with honey and cinnamon and served piping hot.
There are soups and salads too, but I mean, who are you kidding, anyway?
The Rhode Island Row location of The Carolina Kitchen also showcases an oyster bar, and its very own burger joint, right next door. At the connected TKO Burger, which operates as its own separate quick service establishment, you’ll find a diverse collection of burgers, and a southern twist to the typical sides, for instance, fried pickle spears, and sweet potato tots. While it would be hilariously lazy to opine that “these burgers are so good they’ll knock you out!” the burgers are, indeed, quite good.
The walls are adorned with dozens of photos of famous boxers. Muhammad Ali dominates one wall all on his own, with the famous image of him standing over a fallen opponent, yelling and flexing. There are also photos and posters of current fighters, including Floyd Mayweather and Bernard Hopkins.
All the memorabilia is great, and was a rare find for a boxing fan such as myself. I was surprised though that the menu items didn’t take it even further, with boxing-themed names — the brunch burger, with an egg and jam, could have instead been “Sweet Breakfast Science”, catch my drift? The brunch burger itself though was certainly worth a try, and from salmon burgers to turkey burgers, there are plenty of burgers to sample.
Carolina Kitchen and TKO Burger are located at 2350 Washington Pl NE, D.C, within Rhode Island Row. Visit TheCarolinaKitchen.com for more information.