1209 Bedford St., Abington
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday
Saturday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Breakfast 7-11 a.m.); Sunday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Serving breakfast only)
Way north of the Mason-Dixon Line, you can find down-home Southern favorites at Patty Joe’s Po-Boy Cafe in Abington.
In the dining room, with its wooden tables and walls lined with photographs and knickknacks, you might feel like you have stepped into someone’s country kitchen. There are also mounted deer heads whose antlers are adorned with Mardi Gras beads, pink flamingos, and signs full of sass about impatient customers.
Patty McKenna hails from West Virginia, and her husband, Joe, from Taunton. Together, they combine the New England love of seafood with the rich and spicy fare of the South.
Cajun hush puppies ($6) were wonderfully crusty outside and soft inside, and studded with diced jalapeños and chorizo.
“They have a spicy kick to them,” Patty warned.
That may have been overstated, but the heat was perfect for my tastes.
The stuffed quahog ($3) is also billed as spicy on the menu, though it has that same level of tingly warmth. The single large quahog also has bits of pepper and chorizo, and the bready stuffing was pleasant enough, but couldn’t match up to the hush puppies.
The clam strips roll ($9) was served with fries and tartar sauce, and I thought the tender fried clams were good. My friend was more enthusiastic, saying she could tell the clams had been seasoned before frying.
The panko-crusted shrimp in the shrimp po-boy ($11) were sweet, tender, and crunchy outside, and the Cajun mayonnaise was a nice accent. But though the little shrimp were delicious and plentiful, they got a little lost in the doughiness of the roll and the pile of lettuce.
That was not the case with the chicken po-boy ($9), where the substantial, juicy chicken was at the forefront. The fried pieces of chicken were nicely offset by the freshness of the lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles, and the Cajun mayo. Like the shrimp variation, it was served with potato chips.
The Southern fried chicken ($13) was delightfully flaky and crispy, but it was the sides that packed big flavor.
The collard greens were smoky with a nice amount of vinegar, and not overcooked, so they still had a nice bite. The dirty rice, a traditional Cajun dish, was cooked with bits of vegetables and meat to a luxuriousness that was almost creamy. It was simple and unpretentious, yet satisfyingly homey.
The Banana Flop a Do ($5) had banana cream, whipped cream, and fresh banana slices in a pie crust; sitting tall, the creamy layers are likely to flop over when sliced and plated, hence the name. It was essentially a banana cream pie, lightly sweet and simple, in a generously sized wedge.
The key lime pie ($5) was good and tasted like most other versions bearing its name, and the sturdy graham cracker crust was still crisp.
If the weather allows for it, the 36-seat dining area extends to a few tables outside. The scenery includes Route 18 with cars constantly whizzing by, though that was overlooked on a beautifully sunny and breezy day.
A sign at the counter proclaims service is quirky and slow. Our service was prompt on a Friday afternoon when the restaurant was half full, and Patty McKenna ran in and out to wait on tables outside.
On another visit the service was leisurely but not slow. Joe McKenna mingled among the tables a few times, checking to make sure diners were satisfied.
Calling ahead is recommended, since my first visit ended in finding a sign that said the restaurant was closed as they were vacationing in West Virginia for two weeks. I found the restaurant closed on another trip, realizing too late that “Sunday Breakfast only 7:00 to 1:00” on the website meant it closed at 1 p.m., not just that breakfast was served until that time.
The McKennas met as cooks in the Air Force, and returned to New England with the hopes of opening a restaurant. The po-boy is their signature sandwich, Joe said, so they included it in the name.
All the desserts are baked by Patty, and are recipes handed down from her mother and grandmother.
“I don’t do any measuring,” Joe said.
He does much of the cooking, with some help from his wife. She incorporates her travels in the South, from “Key West to Louisiana to West Virginia,” into the food. He adds his own New England influences, with some Portuguese accents known in the Taunton area.
“It’s like the North meets the South,” he said.