Back in the rural parts of my home state, it is common to walk into a restaurant and be greeted with not only a friendly smile, but also a swarm of questions. A gentle pat on the shoulder accompanies inquiries about one’s family, and in that brief walk from hostess stand to table, one is expected to give a short, but detailed summary of his or her recent life. Walking into Pearl’s Place, located on Michigan and Pershing, customers are welcomed with that exact manner.
Welcomed brightly at the door by our hostess, we were escorted across the large dining room and seated in a booth. During the walk, we were queried about our origins, not only going over our college status, but also our home towns. Left at our table, our waitress came over almost immediately to introduce herself and take our drink order; nothing beats homemade pink lemonade. Giving us time to think over the menu, my friend and I were also given a moment to take in the room. The mirrored center divide, mauve curtains, and clothed lilies screamed 1980’s, but here, oddly, there was some comfort in that. Only ten years old, Pearl’s has a new owner who has seemingly tried to put his own touch on the dÃ©cor by adding old jazz and gospel albums to the walls.
Boasting all day breakfast, a southern style buffet, and off the menu soul food, the options for dinner were a bit overwhelming. Holding a general fear of buffets, my friend and I scoured the menu. Unlike most restaurants, at Pearl’s you pick an entrÃ©e of either meat, seafood, or poultry and then choose one or two sides. Both of us are pretty adventurous eaters, meaning the pork neck bones and chitterlings–stewed pig intestines–were the two things that jumped out at us first. When our waitress returned, she guessed that neither of us had ever tried our two desired courses. As a result, she explained the full recipe for how to roast and stew neck bones, as well as steering me in the direction of Pearl’s famous beef tip dinner. It’s the local favorite.
It was a short wait until our meal came: two sizzling platters of slow cooked meat. Because the neck bones come with roasted potatoes and other veggies, my friend could only order yams as her one of eighteen sides, and for myself, I asked for the collard greens and mac and cheese. Our waitress came back multiple times to check in on how we were doing, or to sometimes add a personal comment into our conversation. Over the course of the meal, we all shared roommate and apartment-mate horror stories. By the end, it seemed almost funny that she wasn’t yet sitting at our table.
Both meats were tender, falling off the bone into luscious gravy. The neck bones had a hint of pepper and thyme, but my beef tips were comfort food all the way: simple, home cooked food that reminded me of sitting at my German grandmother’s table when I was younger. The one awkward element was the roasted red and green peppers mixed with onion on top. Perhaps meant to offer acidic relief from the heavy gravy, they instead came off as a superfluous aside: thoughtless and out of place. My friend’s yams were sweet, but it was her roasted potatoes that were the star side of her dish. The collard greens, while well cooked, were lacking a little kick. But then, I generally prefer the spicier side of food. The mac and cheese, however, was exactly right. Not over or under cooked, the inside was creamy with just the right amount of seasoning and the top a flow of melted cheddar cheese.
While my meal had been a little pricier than I expected, coming to about $24, I left the restaurant with a lunch already for the next day. And, trust me, the leftovers were nothing to scoff about.
Pearl’s Place Restaurant, 3901 S. Michigan Ave. Monday-Friday, 7am-8pm; Saturday-Sunday 8am-8pm. (773) 285-1700