Fried chicken with sides of mac and black eyed peas
  • Fried chicken with sides of mac and black eyed peas
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Never let it be said this county is short of corners to explore. I certainly found myself driving along new roads seeking out Bankhead Mississippi Style Cooking, out in a southern corner of Spring Valley, not far from the Sweetwater Reservoir. The area might be called La Presa — who are we supposed to believe these days, anyway: Google Maps or the U.S. Postal Service?

Bankhead Mississippi Style Cooking

8300 Paradise Valley Rd Ste 102 -103, Spring Valley

Regardless, the Bankhead family giving the restaurant its name hails from Mississippi, and so do its recipes, though with maybe a slight concession to its So Cal locale. See, Bankhead embraces slogans like “Old South Tradition, New South nutrition,” and “Grandma Good – Mama Healthy.” Both phrases suggest staying true to the recipes and techniques handed down by family cooks, yet taking into account that modern doctors frown on us eating a lot of this stuff.

The collard greens with pork side dish, or as they call it here: greens

The collard greens with pork side dish, or as they call it here: greens

And Bankhead makes a lot of this stuff. A cafeteria counter displays chafing dishes packed with a litany of Southern staples: fried chicken, baked chicken, smothered chicken, pork ribs, black eyed peas, red beans and rice, potato salad, collard greens — this list goes on for a while and includes fried-to-order fish before finishing with peach cobbler. The place looks ready to feed a platoon, and soldiers of that platoon would have difficult choices to make. How do you choose between three different types of fried fish, or five different preparations of chicken? How do you decide between meatloaf and Salisbury steak?

Meatloaf served over rice: only slightly more photogenic than Salisbury steak over rice

Meatloaf served over rice: only slightly more photogenic than Salisbury steak over rice

All of the above are known to be heavy, comfort food dishes, so there’s little pretending that an $11-14 dinner (medium/large) and two sides is going to fit somehow into your Mediterranean diet. But Bankhead does make a nod to healthy eating, refining traditional recipes by reducing salt, and opting for canola oil. Which makes enough of a difference for me that I’ll splurge on a two entrée mix meal for $14.

A casual restaurant in the Spring Valley/La Presa area

A casual restaurant in the Spring Valley/La Presa area

That eases the decision-making and makes value for two entrees, two Southern sides, corn bread, and a drink of sweet tea or soda. To stay or to-go, the food gets packed in a cheap styrofoam container, dishes kept separate from one another by sheets of foil. It’s not pretty — and I mean that with sincerity: slapping Southern food in styrofoam is never gonna win points for presentation. But I do declare it tasty.

The fried chicken, Salisbury steak, and meat loaf don’t just have me licking my lips, but licking my teeth and my gums as well. Seriously, the gravy drenched ground beef may be habit forming. Same with the similar but tomato-saucy meat loaf, either served over rice. The flavors run deep in this food, even without the heavy butter and salt favored in America’s Delta states. For sides you can’t go wrong with collard greens or black eyed peas, though I keep falling for a basic but tasty mac and cheese.

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