Mo P’s weather-worked wooden sign swings just off Golfside Road between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Listed as a restaurant of “Southern-style,” this genre ascription discounts the gravitas of Mo P’s culinary machinations. When Maurice Philpot (i.e. Mo P.) was looking for a kitchen to bake sweets and other treats, he stumbled across the location. Tucked into a strip mall, what’s now Mo P’s (2071 Golfside Rd), originally scouted by Philpot as a place to perform evening baking in a kitchen to rent after business hours, the restaurant space’s previous owner offered an ultimatum: either lease the entire restaurant or no baking space at all. Philpot responded by creating Mo P’s.
The restaurant occupies two rooms, one sports a lunch counter and the other is a dining room. The kitchen light was off for the duration of our lunchtime visit, so apparently the need for illumination is negligible. The recipes are familiar to the chef on a cellular level, still leaving one to hypothesize about how he could execute them in relative darkness.
Frying with soul
Because authentic soul food requires at least some measure of deep frying for adequate preparation, proper breading is a key component. Too often, the breading gathers moisture from the breaded contents, only to soggify before it reaches the table. Luckily, Mo P understands that potential for southern-fried disaster, eliminating it from the establishment altogether. Notable is the disparity between the breadings for the fried chicken and fried fish; each comprised of a separate breading recipe and befitting the protein it blankets.
Dusted in a mild cornmeal grit with notes of paprika, the Catfish fillets smacked with robust flavor while the coating encased and maintained the fish’s innate succulence.
The ingredients for the fried chicken breading branched from a buttermilk base, crisping the dark meat legs and thighs, allowing them to retain a pleasant semblance of juiciness beneath the delightfully salted and, at times, airy crust.
Quintessential Southern accompaniments
The side dishes all exhibited a fidelity demonstrating their dixie origins. Incarnations of hush puppies, whose crispy exoskeletons spoke with hints of vanilla and herbs, tasted sweetened, with what our table presumed, with a whisper of honey. Other sides including the red beans and rice, collard greens, mac and cheese, and fried okra satisfied our group’s collective expectations.
Two members of our party, returning to visit the Mitten State from the San Francisco Bay Area, one of whom who is an esteemed San Francisco restaurateur, insisted on also sampling the chili dogs. It seems that either chili dogs are unavailable in Northern California, or whatever meager samples can be found in the Bay Area don’t boast the same flavoral panache as dogs concocted Detroit-style.
In true Southern soul food fashion, the food arrived at the table in variations of styrofoam to-go clamshells. Our drinks were served in veritable styrofoam tubs, with generous portions of ice.
We asked to sample the desert as there were several interesting offerings including the buttermilk pie. Unfortunately, the pie was unavailable at the time of our visit and so we had to “settle” for the pound cake, a crumbly scrumptious (if not exactly buttermilk) substitution.
Don’t judge before you taste
Judging from the restaurant’s interior decor alone, the place sets the bar, both low and high, from disparate points of view. Critics and foodies accustomed to spotless silverware and pressed table linens, stay away. But for fans of authentic soul food establishments, decor registers as a languid afterthought, if that; seemingly, the genre’s best restaurants’ attention paid to the interior decor proportionally detracts from the food quality. Mo P’s shines as a northern embassy to cuisine conceived and perfected down south.
When in the mood for Southern-style cooking or soul food recipes in Washtenaw County, just say “Mo P’s, please”.
Mo P’s Chicken & Fish
2071 Golfside, Ypsilanti
734-340-3972 | “Mo P’s” on Facebook
11:30am-7pm, Tuesday-Thursday | Friday and Saturday ‘til 8pm | Sunday 1-6pm | closed Monday