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For Soul Food, You Can’t Go Wrong with Mr. Perkins

Jan. 17, 2017
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Mr. Perkins Family Restaurant (2001 W. Atkinson Ave.) is in an elite group of Milwaukee’s long-lasting eateries. Established in 1969, the restaurant adheres to an old-school aesthetic and approach that works: fantastic food, excellent service and an incredibly friendly ambiance.

I barely had a foot in the door before a server greeted me from behind the bar and asked if I was dining in or carrying out, and I was welcome to sit down if I was eating in. The dude was super nice, and I quickly realized, as folks trod in and out, that carry-out orders keep the kitchen bustling and it was totally feasible that I was coming in to pick up some of their delicious food to go. I sidled up to the counter and ordered some coffee.

Mr. Perkins only operates in the morning and afternoons, so the coffee tends to flow there, dripping as frequently as the bell letting servers know food is ready rings and rings and rings. It’s a busy spot, but the kind of busy where you feel major gratitude to be able to sit and enjoy your time in the pleasant eatery and you tip well, knowing your server and the cooks are working like crazy.

Oh, in addition to enjoying your time, you will enjoy the food. The neck bones ($9.25)—available on Saturday only, along with their holy-cow delectable chitterlings ($18.25)—consists of a sumptuous serving of turkey necks still on the bone. It’s all dark meat in all its glory, and the meat itself is Thanksgiving-juicy. I recommend a dollop of hot sauce every couple of bites to bring a bit of salt and acidity to it, but otherwise, it’s an amazing entrée, one you can eat with your hands or with a fork, depending on either your company or how hungry you are.

Each entrée comes with two sides, of which there are nearly a dozen from which to choose. It’s tough to decide, but the dressing, which is homemade—actually, everything is homemade, it was stressed to me—is the best I’ve ever had. Savory and herbal and perfectly chewy, it’s the kind of dressing you wish you could make at home, but always over-salt or overcook or what have you over the holidays. Not at Mr. Perkins; it’s perfect year round.

Their collard greens—slow-cooked and absent of any meat products, so vegetarians can dig in, too—are so good you catch yourself making weird little happy noises as you eat.

Meals also come with two round discs of cornbread that are reminiscent of corn fritters, but they do a lot of work as a sort of palate cleanser with the kind of meal where you never know what to take a bite out of next because everything is so good. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that a waitress beside me at the counter who had just got off of her shift, swore by the grilled cheese and fries, and I wanted to try them, but I got so full off my plate I couldn’t have gotten anything else. I’ll absolutely be back to try that grilled cheese; I’ll return super often to try the rest of their menu. Mr. Perkins has some of the best food in Milwaukee, bar none, and it is an absolute must-try for anyone in the city. 

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