Carleen King counts 14 restaurants within two blocks of Carmi Soul Food Restaurant, the place she opened in 2011 with her husband, Michael King. That’s if you include fast-food joints — but Carmi’s is hardly fast food. In fact, the stewing and smoking of its ribs and other delicacies takes long enough that since the kitchen staff is there anyway, Carmi’s (pronounced car-mees) opens for breakfast at 8 a.m. six days a week.
The welcoming family restaurant grew out of the Kings’ full-service catering menu, but went full-on soul food because that’s what sold best. Its most popular dishes include such Southern fare as chicken and waffles, fried chicken, mac-and-cheese, shrimp and grits, greens, candied yams and chicken-and-dumpling soup. I’d also recommend the fish and grits (the grits are cheesy) and the smothered pork chops in pepper-onion gravy. The mixed greens are savory, and the slightly sweet, cakey cornbread complements most everything.
Carleen King, who’s a North Side native, says that 70 percent of Carmi’s patrons for dinner and on weekends come from outside the neighborhood. And in a rapidly changing restaurant landscape that includes plenty of options more nouveau or more exotic, those patrons run Allegheny West’s gauntlet of restaurants to do it.
“When people come here, they make a choice,” she says, “so we have to be eternally grateful to each customer.”
917 Western Ave., North Side. 412-231-0100 or www.carmirestaurant.com