After a four-year hiatus, 89-year-old Maurice Prince has re-emerged with a takeout only version of Maurice’s Snack ‘n Chat. I was lucky enough to attend the grand re-opening party. By the time I arrived, the champagne bottles were empty, but the good will was still overflowing. A busload of Maurice’s friends and family members were on scene to assist in the return of a local soul food legend. Based on the food I ate, it was obvious time off didn’t diminish her abundant skills.
Out front, Maurice’s sign features cartoon depictions of two of her specialties: chicken and a “hush puppy.” The “puppy” is chasing the chicken.
An entire wall is lined with signed photos from celebrities, including Robert Guillaume and Sugar Ray Leonard, who dined in her previous establishment. The photos go back a ways; plenty are black-and-white and faded. A long counter separates the front room from the kitchen. On the windowsill between the two rooms sat a fresh-baked coconut cake.
Prince is absolutely meticulous when cooking. It’s not a quick process, but it was worth the hour wait. [Don’t let the wait time deter you, just call ahead.]
Not coated with any batter, the yardbird was mahogany-hued, juicy, with a satisfying chew. Sadly, there weren’t any hush puppies left, so we received a container of monkey bread instead. I don’t know what this bread got its name, and I’m not sure I want to know, but it was terrific: soft, subtly sweet, pull apart yellow rolls.
A compartmentalized platter held monkey bread; matchstick-thin string beans cooked to softness with onion; fresh cut, syrup-free yams; crusty, sweet corn pudding; a succulent baked breast served atop savory cornbread dressing; and in a container all its own, apple “pie.” This was easily the finest plate of soul food in Los Angeles. Amazingly, the meal wasn’t heavy, a testament to Maurice’s skill and her use of quality ingredients. The veggies were clearly fresh. The dressing had a dynamic liver flavor and cuts of celery. The apple pie was more like a cobbler, only softer, with more cinnamon, and it was just terrific. I also saw bean pie listed on the menu, but they didn’t make any for opening day.
The idea that Maurice closed her restaurant at 85 and had the perseverance to reopen at 89 is inspiring. That she’s making the best soul food in Los Angeles is downright remarkable.