Maybe it’s just the mac and cheese, but people always seem happy in soul food restaurants. Hard Knox Cafe is no exception and owner, Tony Hua, strives to “feed your appetite and feed your soul.” We sat at the bar and the bartender flashed us a big smile and said: “I’m Anthony. I’m in charge of keeping y’all hydrated and intoxicated.” Then he topped off our mason jar glasses, which looked perfect on this rare warm City afternoon. I wanted a cold beer and I tend to take things one at a time in my life, but rock climbing across the street at Dogpatch Boulder was next on our Saturday list, so intoxication probably wasn’t the best idea. Not to mention with skinny forearms and weakling fingers, I needed all the help I could get getting up those walls, so I ordered a ginger ale and perused the menu.
With the rusty bars on the front windows and smell of fried chicken enveloping the block, Hard Knox Cafe is a true neighborhood hangout. Blackened red snapper, collards, mac and cheese, and a great big Louisiana hotlink were on the ticket for lunch. Hard Knox Cafe does not mess around when it comes to soul food. Everything is outrageously flavorful but not fancy. Many monochromatic plates come out of the kitchen: mac and cheese, fried chicken, and corn on the cob. All yellow, but all a delicious golden yellow. This is maybe one of the only restaurants that I do not have a moral issue with eating one color meals. But if you need a little green, no judgement, the collards are fabulous.
Next time we are going to Hard Knox post climbing because the only thing that would have made our meal better is if the Giants were winning on the big screen and if we could share a beer with Anthony and our friendly bar neighbors.