Casual Dining reviews

Across the street from the well-manicured Washington Park on Washington Drive in High Point, you’ll find Becky’s and Mary’s Restaurant. There is no sign outside. There is no paved parking lot. There is a simple, unpainted cinder-block building with a neon “open” sign sitting sideways in a window.

Walking in is like entering a church basement. The voices of everyone inside reverberate off the walls producing lilting, slightly cacophonous tones of people enjoying fellowship and food. A mother wrangling with her jubilant toddlers; the coffee klatsch of men who have been there since 8 a.m., swirling the last dregs of coffee; the neighborhood girls who have a little extra pocket money, a little extra time and have stopped by on their lunch break for a special treat.

Yellowed newspaper articles in simple frames decorate some walls, while prayers and banners with shoutouts to the Lord adorn others. The only signs of modernity are a Touch Tones jukebox and a lone flat-screen TV. The ringing of an old push-button telephone punctuated the din of conversations with people calling in to-go orders.

This 46-year-old cash-only establishment has its menus written on dry-erase boards. The cuisine is classic Southern and in some circles, it’s soul food. It’s like dinner at grandma’s, surrounded by good food and good people. Feed your soul with breakfast, lunch and possibly a very early dinner here. Plastic trays and baskets and foam cups and plates cradle the food while dusty salt and pepper shakers on each table look on.

Everything from soft scrambled egg on toast to pancakes and liver pudding and grits start the day at Becky’s and Mary’s. Every day the lunch and dinner options change. Fried chicken, chitterlings, hamburger steak, pork chops, meatloaf and more rotate on the menu as the sides: greens, beans, potato salad, candied yams, and macaroni and cheese.

The fried chicken is a big draw here, and I waited a full 25 minutes for the first batch to come from the kitchen. I found the crispy, crunchy crust to be incredibly salty, but the meat was good. The meatloaf is bestrewn with bits of green pepper and onion and enrobed in a hybrid ketchup-tomato sauce.

The macaroni and cheese is not very cheesy, saucy or special. It’s lightly coated with a thin cheese sauce that sinks to the bottom of the plate. The potato salad is the best of all the sides I tried. Mayonnaise-based with large pieces of hard-boiled egg, bits of bell pepper, pimiento, pickle relish and potatoes, it’s the salad you hope is at cookouts you attend in the summer. The turnip greens tasted as if someone accidentally put a little too much brown sugar in the pot, rendering them too sweet.

Between you and me, everything tastes better the next day. Get your meal to go. Refrigerate it and revisit it the next day. The leftovers taste 100% better reheated, which is generally impossible with other styles of cuisine. The chicken I thought too salty turned into the perfectly flavored picnic chicken I had not had in a long time. The too-sweet greens became mellowed with an underlying twinge of the earthiness that make greens so favorable. I don’t recommend reheating the rolls or the cornbread, but everything else is fair game.

Go to Becky’s and Mary’s for the food but stay for the fellowship amid strangers.

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Casual Dining features local restaurants for diners on a budget. It appears the second and fourth Thursday of the month. Contact Nikki Miller-Ka at nicolettemiller.ka@gmail.com.

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