BY DAVID NICHOLSON
February 11, 2005
Restaurants often tout their "home cooking" philosophy, but few can pull it off like Cora.
The Ghent eatery run by Nancy Cobb is a culinary snapshot of her family and her love of Southern foods.
Named for her great-grandmother, Cora combines family recipes, traditional favorites such as buttermilk fried chicken and comfort foods such as meatloaf and liver and onions.
There’s a healthy dose of Cajun dishes and a surprising number of vegetarian and vegan selections.
A new sidewalk dining area awaits the warmer months, but inside, the atmosphere is warm with conversation and good cheer.
Young people crowd the long bar to the left, and though smoking is allowed in the bar area, the smell didn’t seem to bleed into the dining room. Dark walls and a black and white checked tile floor lend a classic touch.
The eclectic menu offers plenty of dishes that are simple but out of the ordinary, such as Cobb’s version of chicken pot pie and fried chicken.
There’s usually a gumbo or an etouffe among the specials, such as the shrimp and sausage gumbo on the menu the night we visited. Regulars go for Cobb’s crab cakes or oyster stew.
Another favorite is Cora’s signature salad ($6), which we ordered as one of our appetizers.
It’s made with a large wedge of iceberg lettuce and topped with bacon pieces and a generous amount of homemade bleu cheese dressing.
The ingredients sound simple, and they are, but the combination of flavors never disappoints.
Fried shrimp and okra ($8), our second appetizer, was less successful.
The batter seemed a bit heavy to us so that the dish wasn’t as light and crisp as it needed to be.
Homemade tartar sauce, a nice addition, gave the dish some zing.
Salmon and catfish plus a variety of shellfish items provide plenty of seafood choices. Steak tips, ham steak and chicken dishes all have a Southern flair about them.
The North Carolina fish muddle ($16.50) caught our eye and didn’t disappoint.
According to the menu, the recipe comes from Cobb’s father.
It’s a Southern version of the rich seafood stew called bouillabaisse found in Provence.
The Cora version, made with large shrimp and catfish, potatoes and onions in a tomato broth, is lighter but quite tasty.
Bread comes with the dinner, but you’ll need more to sop up the broth.
Our second choice was a winner as well.
A large pork chop ($17) was basted with a peach-bourbon glaze and served with collards and mashed potato.
The meat came tender, and the coating gave the dish a slightly sweet but unusual taste.
Southerners can turn out a mean dessert, and Cora is no exception.
Again, the choices are uncomplicated but delicious, such as the apple tart and chocolate cake. We tried the bread pudding ($6), which was good but a little too firm to our liking, and a great chocolate-coconut pie ($5).
Occasionally, Cora features entertainment. But it’s a lively place without it, and one where the food and service embody Southern hospitality.
Copyright ©2005 Daily Press