Page's Okra Grill
794 Coleman Blvd., Mt. Pleasant
Breakfast: Mon.-Sun.; Lunch: Mon.-Sat.; Dinner: Mon.-Sat.
Some of my fondest childhood memories were made in my grandma's kitchen. While I sat watching, she fried pounds of chicken and creamed pots of potatoes: pure, Southern comfort food. I was quickly reminded of what makes Southern food so comforting and delicious on a recent trip to Page's Okra Grill.
Linda Page (of Page's Thieves' Market) purchased the old Billy's Back Home location last November, and her brother Tony runs the place. His 24-year-old daughter, Ashley, continues to prove why Southern Living and the Food Network took notice of her cooking during her stint at Serena's Kitchen at Boone Hall.
Walk inside the Okra Grill and not much has changed from the days of Billy's. The same tables, chairs, booths, and a few familiar faces now mingle with new T-shirts, a fresh coat of paint, and a catchy new sign. A few more decorative touches would add character and make this place feel like home. The service is friendly and quick. Nothing fancy, no frills. But what makes Okra Grill different is the food.
As did its predecessor, Okra Grill draws a large crowd for breakfast, which perhaps explains a few of the shortcomings we experienced. The menu is jam-packed with traditional stuff like omelets, breakfast sandwiches, and French toast, alongside a few Okra Grill specialties, including a low-carb breakfast for the dieters out there.
The Signature Shrimp & Grits ($6.99) contain spicy, sautéed shrimp, onion, and peppers, served over grits and topped with a creamy, buttery sauce. While the flavors in this dish were good, the lumpy and bland grits fell a little short. A later phone call confirmed my suspicions that instant grits are used in place of stone ground grits on occasion. Add stone ground grits to this dish and they've got a winner.
Tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese stuff the garden omelet ($5.50). Served with grits and toast or one of their flaky, buttery biscuits, the omelet lacked fluffiness and was slightly stiff, but nothing a little less whisking of the eggs wouldn't fix.
The Okra Grill Waffle Breakfast ($5.99) is made of waffles, two eggs any style, and a choice of ham, bacon, or sausage. We opted for sausage and scrambled eggs, which again lacked fluff and were overcooked. The waffles were light and sweet, and when slathered in syrup, quickly became the highlight of our breakfast.
Lunch is where the talents that brought national attention to this young, southern cook were highlighted. Offerings include salads, soups, and cold plates, as well as blue plate specials, sandwiches, fried seafood, and burgers, and the portions are huge. We chose the country-fried steak with white pepper gravy ($6.50) and the slow-cooked barbecue pork plate ($6.99), both with two sides and biscuits or cornbread.
The steak, unlike some I have had, was the perfect thickness, coated in a crispy, golden-brown crust and smothered with a well-seasoned white gravy. The accompanying collard greens were cooked to tender perfection, with just a hint of acid and a peppery finish. Mashed potatoes, also covered in white gravy, were rich and creamy and contained small chunks of potato, which added texture and enhanced the homestyle taste of the dish.
Incredibly tender and juicy and coated in a red sauce that was well balanced with sweetness and spice, the slow-cooked barbecue pork was some of the best I have ever eaten. Mac and cheese accompanied it, and was buttery, cheesy, and lip-smacking good.
Desserts are all made in-house and vary daily. We opted for pecan pie ($3.50). Although the crust lacked the flakiness of a homemade version, the filling was dark, sweet, and syrupy.
Okra Grill provides local folks with generous portions, fast service, and a friendly, no-frills atmosphere, and the talented cook in the kitchen is already attracting a loyal following to her "greasy-spoon" by serving good Southern food. Her grandma ought to be proud.