Granny's Restaurant may be right next to the food court in Owings Mills Mall, but it's far from your typical mall food. Soul food is Granny's specialty — served with a smile.
Named after Chef Valerie Dorsey's 106-year-old grandmother, Granny's moved from its old home down the street to a space three times bigger at the mall. Granny's has been at its new digs for eight months now, and its staff is beginning to feel at home.
While the owners have done some renovation, the ghost of the previous tenant, a Chinese restaurant, still haunts the place. The mustard walls and the lipstick-red drapes do give the cavernous restaurant the feel of your grandmother's house, though.
The staff at Granny's, from the hostess to the women busing the tables, were all eager to please. Our 18-year-old server, who has been with Granny's for years, said that he thought of the restaurant as home. His dedication to his job and knowledge of the food added to Granny's family vibe.
After suggesting some items and taking our order, our server blazed back with our appetizers in what felt like less than five minutes. The shrimp and grits ($12.95) were generously portioned (a reoccurring theme at Granny's), and more smooth than gritty. Topped with cheddar and chopped shrimp, this dish started our meal on a great down-home note.
Buffalo fried chicken livers ($7.95) were original, to say the least. Slightly overcooked but not bitter, the chicken livers were crispy on the outside, even after being covered in a spicy buffalo sauce. This would be a great introduction for people scared to try chicken livers.
The Aunt CC's Lemonade ($8.50), a house recipe, was super-sweet and made with brown sugar, lemonade, sweet tea and Disaronno amaretto. Luckily, the spiciness of the buffalo livers made up for the tea's sweetness.
The entrees came out almost annoyingly fast — our appetizers hadn't been half-finished by then. With a cramped table, we dug into our steaming-hot main courses.
The chicken and waffles ($16.95) were a great version of a Southern classic. The four whole chicken wings had crisp crusts, moist meat, and were partnered with warm waffles. The best thing about chicken and waffles is you get to mix fried chicken with pancake syrup and then sop up all of the brittle and sticky-sweet bits with a waffle. If you happen to be using hot sauce (and why wouldn't you?) the mixture of sweet, spicy, crunchy and chewy is hard to beat.
Another fried favorite were the Southern pork chops ($18.95). Smothered with brown gravy and onions, the pork chops, while a little overcooked, were juicy and scorchingly hot inside. And their outer crust was flaky and flavorful. If the kitchen had remembered that pork only has to be cooked to 145 degrees, this plate of food would have been a triumph.
The sides at Granny's are prepared better than most places that serve this style of home-cooked fare. The fried apples paired excellently with the pork chops and made for a grown-up version of a childhood favorite. The macaroni and cheese, while a little bland, was creamy even when it was starting to cool down. The candied yams were incredibly sweet. I couldn't stop eating them. The collard greens were smoky and not overpowering, while remaining cut-with-a-fork tender.
Granny's does not disappoint in the dessert department — it features eight homemade confections as well as ice creams and sorbets. The peach cobbler ($5.95) was served a la mode and came out as a whole mini pie. The fresh peaches were bathed in saucy peach puree but weren't heavy. The tang of the peaches offset the sugariness of the sauce.
The sweet potato pie ($5.95), also a whole small pie, seemed as if it was straight from your grandmother's oven. This pie was fantastic. It wasn't overly sugary and was velvety in texture and big enough to feed two. My only complaint is that I would have liked to have seen the crust a little browner.
Mall food is usually an afterthought — something you scarf down between stores. But the old favorites at Granny's are good enough to make you want to eat first and shop second. While you're there, you might want to pick up some sweat pants — the more elastic the waistband, the better.
Back story: After three years at the old space, Granny's has moved into Owings Mills Mall to keep up with the demand for its great soul food.
Parking: Owing's Mills Mall has plenty of spots.
Signature dish: Go for the chicken and waffles. Granny's has a great version of this Southern classic: four crispy whole chicken wings served with warm waffles.
Where: 10300 Mill Run Circle, Owings Mills
Open: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays
Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover
[Key: Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭ Good: ✭✭✭ Fair or Uneven: ✭✭ Poor: ✭]