Finding Hannibal’s, in an unstylish East Side neighborhood of port industry and housing projects, is a challenge. It looks more like an unholy bar than a Holy Grail, its low-slung dining room lit with a random array of bare bulbs and fluorescents, its seats a hodgepodge of upholstered chairs, banquettes that resemble automobile bench seats, and a few stools at the order counter.
It appears forbidding, but Jane and I were immediately welcomed; actually, we were treated more like family than customers, enjoying a constant back-and-forth joshing with the staff about how we were enjoying the various items we ordered. Wanting to try everything on the menu, which includes such soul standards as smothered pork chops and fried whiting, but also expands plate-lunch possibilities to include peppery shrimp fried rice, we overordered and plowed into a meal of turkey necks, shrimp fried rice, okra stew with pig tails, and crisp-fried shark, all sided by clove-accented braised cabbage and followed by sweet-sweet sweet potato pie.
Hannibal’s is open for three meals a day, with breakfast offerings that include shrimp and grits, and liver ‘n’ onions with grits and toast. It also is known for its inexpensive sandwiches of ham, bologna, sausage, or other lunch meat. Don’t ask me to explain why, but somehow the bologna on white with mayo and tomato is really, really good.