Chef Marilyn's Soul Food Express: 99-cents and Up

It’s easy to find Chef Marilyn’s Soul Food. Just head south off the 10 at Crenshaw and look for the line that stretches out the door from 10:30am to 9pm. It’s easy to be tempted away by the smoke from Phillips Bar-B-Que, but Chef Marilyn’s has a line for a reason. Advertising “99-cents and up”, the tiny cafeteria-style eatery sells food a la carte (or a la Chinese buffet). The prices range from 99 cents for dishes like lima beans, neck bones and links to $8 for oxtails. There is also a location on Pico.

The menu rotates, with check marks on the chalkboard next to items in that day's hot buffet. Know what you want and don’t dawdle. Service is friendly, but there are 15 people behind you. You pay the cashier at the end, just like at a cafeteria. The next thing you know, the line moves you right on out the door. This is a place to pick up your plate and go home, or enjoy it on the hood of your car. Remember, there is no shame in eating on your bumper.

Chef Marilyn was brought up in Louisiana on creole and Cajun food. It especially shows in her cornmeal-crusted catfish, perhaps their best dish. With main dishes, you can't go wrong with anything smothered or fried. Some people go crazy for the meatloaf, but I haven't tried it myself. I always order the catfish; it's so good I could eat myself to death like a goldfish and float up to the top of the fishbowl.