Lakewood citizens will be pleased to learn that the next restaurant to join their ranks will not be another burger bar, pizza joint, taco shop or Asian fusion concept. No, Chow Chow Kitchen, as the name implies, is rooted in the Deep South, specializing in comfort food dishes gleaned from various temperate regions. On the menu are culinary expressions from New Orleans, Nashville and the Low Country – classic Southern dishes adapted for here and now.
“We’re kind of jumping around to a lot of sub-genres of Southern cuisine,” explains chef and owner Joseph Zegarac. “We want to focus on dishes that have been around for a long time.”
A perfect example of that is the “shaved catfish,” a dish made famous by Middendorf's, a Louisiana seafood restaurant around since the 1930s. The fillets are sliced horizontally into very thin flanks, and then battered and fried. The process results in a dish with a higher breading-to-fish ratio.
“That dish became really popular back when people didn’t have a lot of money to feed their big families,” notes Zegarac.
The crispy panko-breaded filets are served with housemade chips, creamy coleslaw and charred-lemon tartar sauce.
Also on the menu is the chef’s take on Nashville-style hot chicken, spicy fried chicken paired classically with white bread and dill pickles. A whole category of Po’ Boys offers varieties filled with everything from hickory-smoked pork with blackened onions to andouille sausage, baked beans and the namesake chow chow relish.
A creative spin on City Chicken nets a South-meets-Far East version with roots in General Tso’s chicken. Nuggets of pork are battered, fried and tossed in a sweet and spicy blackberry glaze, giving the meat a deep purple hue. Further muddying the borders, the pork is served with Cajun-style fried rice.
Along with a host of sides – think mac and cheese, spice-dusted jo-jos, BBQ beans on toast, deviled eggs – Chow Chow flaunts a tantalizing roster of snacks that may be difficult to navigate past. In the popcorn cheddar curds, little cheese nubbins are battered and fried and served with house gravy. Hushpuppies are plumped up with smoked salmon. The dog in the corn dog is swapped out with smoky andouille sausage, and in place of mustard is a “gumbo crema” for dipping.