A couple of my friends had raved to me about the new restaurant at 3613 Broadway, a home-style barbeque restaurant called C. Withers Restaurant & Catering. But my friend Richard Strong, who lives in the neighborhood, practically demanded that I eat there.
"The food is fantastic. And so inexpensive!"
The family-owned business is located in the narrow storefront last occupied by the Nigat Ethiopian Restaurant. The simple black awning over the entrance doesn't say much -- other than the owner's name -- about the business. But this joint is definitely worth a visit. I tasted some of the best ribs, chicken wings, cornbread and side dishes that I've eaten in this town. And yes, the fare is modestly priced.
But for one day -- next Tuesday, June 2 -- owner Cardell Withers is serving a lunch for $1.03 as part of a promotion with local radio station 103 KPRS-FM. What, I asked him, can you serve for a buck and three pennies? "Three chicken wings and a side dish," he told me.
And baby, those chicken wings are good. And you haven't lived until you've tasted cheesecake-flavored cornbread.
I was lunching with Richard and my friend Truman, who immediately recognized owner Cardell Withers. "We used to wait tables together at the Hyatt Regency, over 20 years ago," Truman said, between bites of barbecued rubs.
Withers went into the soft drink business after leaving the Hyatt and as a lark, used to bring in home-cooked food for his co-workers. "I've never had a cooking class in my life," Withers said. "Never was taught how to cook by my grandmother or my mother or anyone else. But I always knew I could cook." Withers started catering his home-smoked meats and side dishes.
"I started out," he says, "with a $30 grill from Wal-Mart." Later he bought a mobile truck and later operated a small restaurant near the now-razed Bannister Square Shopping Center. Two months ago, he moved into the space at 3613 Broadway.
Three of his eight kids work in the restaurant with him. On the day I lunched at the restaurant, Cardell Withers, Junior was cooking in the kitchen and nursing student Alex'es was the waitress. I had already decided wanted the $12.80 Mix Plate, which boasts three chicken wings (available in mesquite, apple, Jamaican and Bourbon flavors), rib tips slathered in Withers' signature sauce and a small order of the first-rate blackened chicken and sausage pasta.
The ribs and wings were great, but the big surprise was the pasta, which is outstanding: loaded with smoked chicken, sausage, onion and red, yellow and green peppers.
The side dishes are excellent too. Withers smokes potato wedges, then tosses them with garlic, real butter and herbs. The macaroni and cheese is blended in a thick, uniquely seasoned cheese sauce and the cornbread is baked with a changing array of flavors: it was cheesecake and cherry today, but Withers also offers pineapple, honey, grape and peach-flavored cornbread too.
Customers can either eat in the restaurant or oder from the carry-out window. The restaurant is open Tuesday through saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.