A brown banner behind a window is the only sign Five Loaves needs. Inside, calming yellow and green walls are the perfect backdrop to a collection of splashy African art that hangs about the room. Owned by a local family, the space contains only nine small tables, but the menu’s depth suggested a kitchen staff prepared for a feast.
Greeted by a young and, as one Yelp describer accurately declared, “cute” hostess, we were directed to choose any table we liked. Most patrons seemed to order to-go, and a table with coffee, cake, and a few chairs offered a place to sit while waiting.
As the hostess poured water, she also listed the specials: for breakfast, one pork chop with two eggs any way with a side of French toast, rice or grits, and biscuits for $9.50; or the lunch option, their special catfish nuggets and chicken wings with a side of collard greens, yams, and your choice of garlic bread or biscuits for $10.50.
Needless to say, the amount of food for the price is a hard thing to find within the city limits. On the regular breakfast menu were egg sandwiches, omelets, pancakes, and waffles. But you could tell just by looking at the menu that the chef was determined to add in some elegance with the options of salmon croquettes and a specialty dill sauce.
The regular lunch menu, meanwhile, contained classics, such as chicken salad sandwiches, and southern favorites like fried catfish and chicken wings. Even though 5 Loaves boasts of their southern cooking, they often have healthier options such as turkey bacon or ground turkey to encourage more responsible diets.
Our waitress was welcoming and quickly helped us pick out our lunch. My friend decided on the daily special of catfish and chicken wings with the many sides. As so many options tend to overwhelm me, I went with our waitress’s favorite, the fried tilapia with collard greens, yams, and a homemade biscuit.
Glancing around the small eatery, it looks as if the atmosphere tries to balance the feel of a cafÃ© with the personable attitude of a family restaurant. Many of the customers sit alone, enjoying a quiet lunch and bantering just enough with our same waitress to reveal their status as regulars. Soft, coffee shop—type music plays in the background while the smell of the fryer clings to the air. It is a homey feeling, with a fringe of sophistication.
My friend was served first, her giant mound of crispy, fried catfish and wings almost indiscernible from each other. My portion followed, thankfully contained on one plate. The waitress came to our table two more times to bring my friend the rest of her sides.
Encouraged by our waitress to eat the homemade dill sauce with the tilapia, I cautiously loaded up my first bite–tarter sauce is not typically a condiment of my choosing. I found this sauce, however, to be light and creamy, almost as if it were a mix of sour cream and crÃ¨me fraiche with a touch of dill mixed in. The result was the ideal cooling agent to go atop my fish. I would gladly take her advice again.
Not to be outdone, my friend gave me a piece of her catfish to compare. Fried in the same light batter, the catfish was perfectly cooked. Having each ordered the same sides, we dug into our yams. Sweetened with brown sugar and some spices, the surprise of the yam came from their addition of orange juice, giving the mash a much-needed dose of acid. The greens were delicious, but my favorite was the biscuit. Baked just right, it was warm and flaky and offered the perfect vehicle for enjoying the yams.
Filled to the brim, as we walked out of 5 Loaves Eatery, we could sense that we had stumbled upon the southern belle of Greater Grand Crossing. Modest in size and decoration, generous in portions, and just adventurous enough in flavors, it was hard not to fall in love.
5 Loaves Eatery, 405 E. 75th St. Tuesday-Friday, 8am-4pm; Sunday, 12pm-6pm. (773)891-2889