The family-style Southern food at Monell’s takes the buffet tableside, meaning you don’t have to lumber over to the steam table to get another helping. The experience captures the warmth and abundance of a holiday meal without the bickering and uneven cooking. Even with a dozen or so options, everything on the table requires a second helping.
Family-style seatings like this are a draw for the gregarious and a terror for the misanthrope. Both sorts will have to deal with unpredictable wait times as there are only a few tables at the Germantown location and they get sat all at once. Although we are more hungry for Southern classics than conversation, we didn’t get much social pressure at the table, only friendly smiles and good manners. Remember to pass to the left. Don’t worry about taking the last biscuit, the staff are trained to sense empty baskets.
The table at Sunday lunch features four main courses, eight sides, a fragrant biscuit/cornbread basket, and unforgettable strawberry shortcake. Kettle-fried chicken is served at every meal — breakfast, lunch and dinner — every day that ends in “y.” We can see why. It’s peppery and gently cooked to the point where the breading stays savory and the chicken retains all its juices. Broiled catfish is a daily special that almost overshadows the chicken. Every fillet is seasoned boldly with blackening seasoning and cooked more precisely than much of what we’ve had at expensive seafood restaurants.
The best side is macaroni and cheese, swimming in the liquid gold cheese sauce. Signature corn pudding is also unmissable. This sweet-savory mush of fresh and dried corn is flavorful enough to add a sauce-like boost to any of the other dishes on your plate.
Nothing we had is short of very good, so do pace yourself. You must try an excellent warm biscuit with smoky sausage gravy. If you have a sweet tooth, add signature peach preserves, which are made with vanilla, giving the plate a taste of peaches and cream. To wash it all down, there are pitchers of iced tea (sweet or not). The tea helps stimulate the appetite, and it completes the country home ambience of Monell’s.