4th of July: Blue Plate & Joe’s Southern Kitchen

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Cool Whip pie at Blue Plate
Cool Whip pie at Blue PlatePhotography by Neil Wissink

A visit to Blue Plate, a new all-American restaurant from the makers of Outsider Tart

On the 4th of July 1776, the United States declared its independence from Britain. Fast-forward 237 years, and Britain is claiming its stake in the American culinary tradition. With fried chicken, hamburgers, and ribs hitting high street, side-street, and fine dining menus across London, over the past few years many a chef has tried their hand at reinventing diner and drive-through classics. And while we, as North Americans, have eagerly sampled multiple transatlantic takes on everything from meatloaf to macaroni and cheese, sometimes there’s no replacement for the real thing.

So it was with excitement that we made our first visit to Blue Plate, the new soul food(ish) shack opened by the owners of American bake shop, Outsider Tart, David Muniz and David Lesniak. Both Americans, Muniz and Lesniak ("the Davids"), have carved out a place for themselves in west London with their generously portioned and delicious baked goods, including US favourites like rice krispie squares and whoopie pies. They told us that for Blue Plate (which you get to by walking through the bakery), they were eager not to reinvent the wheel; they wanted to make the food they’d grown up with back home. Much to our delight, they have. We enjoyed a sneak peak of their special 4th of July menu, including BBQ chicken with spicy Carolina bourbon sauce, chili mac (mac ‘n’ cheese heaped with chili), BBQ baby back ribs, and from the regular menu, a patty melt – a grilled cheese sandwich with a hamburger in the middle. To compensate for this rather meat-heavy show, they’ve also included Kasha Varnishkes, an exquisite cracked wheat and farfalle dish with spicy wild mushroom gravy popular at delis on New York’s Lower East Side. Hitting the flavour combinations bang on, Blue Plate’s menu is unconditionally American in scope and sensibility, and we weren’t surprised to hear that they’ve sourced many of their spices and crucial ingredients from the States. Without a doubt, we enjoyed the best hot dog we’ve had yet in London; forthright and enticing, it was heaped with spicy onions, French’s mustard, and served in a warm, slightly toasted bun. Dessert was a homemade Cool Whip pie, for which they’ve created their own version of that favourite American cream topping, and a Hillbilly pecan and oat pie with sorghum syrup, a light molasses type syrup mostly found in the South and often served with buttermilk pancakes. To top things off, Blue Plate offers not only a strong selection of small batch brews, but also an American wine list which reaches from sea to shining sea, with selections not only from California, but from unexpected places like the Finger Lakes in New York State, Washington State, and Oregon. Blue Plate is perfect for Americans looking for a real hit of homestyle cooking, or for anyone else who wants to go turncoat.

"Blue Plate is perfect for Americans looking for a real hit of homestyle cooking, or for anyone else who wants to go turncoat"

Heralding the arrival of another modern US classic to London, beer can chicken has become an essential addition to the all-American barbeque. Indelicate as it is – a half-full beer can is pushed up a chicken before its cooked to keep it moist and then the chicken is cooked "standing" up – it is undeniably one of the best ways to grill fowl. This specialty is being served with aplomb at Joe’s Southern Kitchen in Covent Garden. An unexpected place to find culinary satisfaction, Joe’s menu is doing a good job of bringing broad favourites from below the Mason-Dixon Line to central London. The lightly spiced, fried pickled okra were delicate yet firm, and the corn bread with paprika butter was a bit of a deviation from the usual, but a fine combination of soft and mealy nonetheless. A good place to raise a can of beer and toast independence.

Text by Ananda Pellerin