Soul/Southern food has been in a waxing-and-waning situation in Southern Nevada for years, with some places opening to great fanfare but a brief future, others sort of sliding in and out of the market, and even established restaurants falling by the wayside in tough economic times. Through it all, M&M Soul Food Cafe has endured.
If memory serves, M&M’s first Las Vegas restaurant opened at least 10 years ago in the northwestern part of the valley. It moved a few years ago to West Charleston Boulevard; much newer is the one we recently visited, on Las Vegas Boulevard South in the shadow of the Stratosphere.
The new spot is a big open space, decorated fairly simply and adorned, if we’re not mistaken, with the same decorative tile that’s a feature on West Charleston. They also share a devotion to fairly basic but well-executed soul food. At both locations things get off to a good start with hot-water cornbread, seldom-seen (in these parts or any) flapjacklike rounds with a slightly crispy texture that, when folded around a bit of butter, are heaven on a plate.
There aren’t a lot of starters on M&M’s menu and they were out of fried green tomatoes so we went with the red beans and rice ($9), served heaped in a bowl, a portion that could easily have been a meal. The beans were suitably hearty and deeply flavored, but this dish posed a surprise. The menu said it would come with a hot link. I don’t like hot links because of their overly soft texture, but the kitchen had artfully scored the casing and grilled the sausage, which improved the texture exponentially.
Fried chicken ($13.99, plus $1 for all white meat) was good, a golden, impossibly crisp coating shattering to give way to the moist meat inside. A full portion (half-portions are available) was supposed to be three pieces, but because we were served wings with our large breast half, they included three of them. (Too much to eat, but that’s what takeout containers are for.)
Short ribs ($18.99 for a full portion) were carefully braised, rendering them perfectly moist and tender. They come with a choice of gravy or barbecue sauce, and the latter had all the hallmarks of being right out of the bottle.
And the side dishes. Full portions come with three, which is why we went that direction; like banchan at a Korean barbecue, side dishes show the strength of a Southern/soul-food restaurant, so we wanted to try as many as we could.
Fried okra was perfect, the coating perfectly crisp and the perfect foil for the soft (but not gooey) okra within. Sweet potatoes were blessed with a delicate kiss of honey. Potato salad was pretty good; rice and gravy made us wish we’d gotten the gravy with the short ribs; and macaroni and cheese was fine if not extremely cheesy. Cornbread dressing was dry, but what cornbread dressing isn’t?
Service throughout was very good. I’d seen some comments about slow service, but we were seated and served promptly. While it seemed to take a little too long for the red beans and rice to come out, everything else was timed well.
Considering the vagaries that have befallen Southern/soul-food restaurants in Southern Nevada and my unfortunate lack of a crystal ball, I wouldn’t hazard a guess on the future of M&M Soul Food. But with its hot soul food and warm Southern hospitality, we hope it will be long-term.
— Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at email@example.com. Find more of her stories at www.reviewjournal.com and follow @HKRinella on Twitter.Like Neon Las Vegas on Facebook: