Under-Promise and Over-Deliver

. May 2, 2012.
food1

Ann Arbor’s historic Elks Club is no longer keeping its soul food to itself. The torch has been passed, and it is smokin’ hot.

For a long time the kitchen was low-key. Elks’ brothers Sam Perry and James Wesley would start spareribs and chicken on the outdoor smoker on Friday nights, for feeding club members on Saturdays.
In recent years, the Elks Club has been increasingly accessible. From their popular weekend dance parties (including the monthly “Funky Kingston” reggae events), to the live jazz series from Thursdays – Saturdays, the Club is now serving it up to the public.

Chef Kelli Harden, assisted by Kevin Cook, continues the spareribs and chicken, but has turned everything else up a notch. They’ve ditched the canned beans and white bread for fried chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese, savory black eyed peas and collard greens, and fresh baked corn muffins. “We want to take it to a different level,”
says Kevin.

Kelli adds, “People don’t expect anything special out of this kitchen. A wise man once said, ‘under-promise, and over-deliver.’ Some of my most memorable meals were unexpected.” Guests from the South have praised Kelli, telling her it was among the best soul food they’d ever had. One said, “This is Mississippi good!”

Kelli got her start cooking at home (“No baking! Ever!”), and found it an outlet for anxiety and stress relief. “I also liked to feed my dad,” she said. At the University of Michigan, where she had initially intended to follow the academic lifestyle of “class, research, teaching, thesis,” she found herself cooking to pay the rent. She got sucked into the adrenaline rush of restaurant work, “If you’re not going to race cars, you’ve got to be a line cook!”

Academics exhausted her. Cooking rejuvenated her. After work on the line at the Gandy Dancer, Kelli would come home, pour a glass of wine, put on music, and cook some more – for stress relief. Her friend Jenna Parks recalls, “One night we got back from the bar and wanted salsa and chips. Kelli made a roasted corn salsa, with fresh tomatoes and homemade corn chips — I don’t think we ate until 5am." Her roommates were mad it was so late — but it was the best salsa they’d ever had.”

After the Gandy Dancer, Kelli worked stints with Eve Aronoff at eve the restaurant and Frita Batidos. Michael Henry, then the Elks’ Exalted Ruler, “kept bugging me to come work in the kitchen, and finally I came.” She brought Kevin, who had worked with her at the Gandy Dancer and Frita’s. Their personal favorite is the crispy fried chicken, with a 24-hour buttermilk marinade, coated in a
“secret ingredient.”

“Soul food is the coolest food there is,” says Kelli. “Just come try it.”

Elks Neighborhood Kitchen is located at 220 Sunset Road.
Hours are Thursday and Friday 5-10pm and Saturday 4-10pm.

For more information, call 734-761-7172 or visit www.facebook.com/ElksKitchen.

Trending

Mittenfest

  Here’s what Mittenfest means to me… If I imagine a day when I’m no longer ‘on the scene…,’ when I’m no longer as ‘into’ live local music…, when I’m slowing down and not keeping up as much as I do…, then the fondest memories, the most vivid mental Polaraoids that will slide through my

Domino’s Farms Aids Ann Arbor’s Need for Office Space

Domino’s Pizza and Arbor Research are both launching new office building projects at Domino’s Farms. Domino’s Pizza is creating a 33,000-square-foot building on the north side of Domino’s Farms, expanding to their current space. Arbor Research is creating a new 49,500-square-foot headquarters building on the east side of Domino’s Farms. Both buildings should be completed

A Physician’s Perspective on Legalized Cannabis

On Tuesday, November 6th, Michigan became the 10th state to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Ten years ago, we had become the 13th state to legalize Cannabis for medical use. I voted for the medical cannabis law years ago because, in my view, cannabis is not a dangerous product, and too many people were being imprisoned for its use. At that time, however, I did not subscribe to the argument that there were legitimate medical uses for cannabis. How things have changed.

Tiny Expo at Ann Arbor District Library—A Curated Holiday Gift Fair with Flair

The Tiny Expo is a gem of an indie arts and crafts fair for vendors with original and unexpected products that make wonderful gifts but may not be an obvious fit for Ann Arbor’s mainstream art fairs. Shoppers who crave artistic, high quality products with diverse price points will find a rich variety of unique, handmade products to choose from.