I am going to preface this review with a little soapbox. I work on the east side of Cleveland. I drive through some sketchy neighborhoods but have never once been accosted or even remotely concerned for my safety. Yes I almost daily get hit up for change here and there, but outside of that minor annoyance I’ve been left alone. I had a conversation with an African American restaurateur that thinks I am out of my mind stopping at some of these out of the way places. I have eaten soul food from a Liquor store (it wasn’t that good. It tasted like soul food from a liquor store.), I have eaten a couple times at Rib Kings over on Buckeye, and I have been known to stop over at Popeye’s when I felt the need for some fast food. I do not mind eating in “the hood”. Food to me has no race. If it is good food then it is good food. People; black, white, brown, or green are amazed at the fact I would get food from some of the hole in the wall joints I have been stopping at recently. They think I am nuts for risking my life to grab food in the inner city. There is no question I am a white male. I glow in the dark I am so white. If this were 1950’s America maybe I would be concerned about it but I can’t believe in this day and age people are still fearful of patronizing a restaurant based on location and race demographics.
When I walked into King Kennedy I was treated like a King. They offered me samples of the Roast Beef, the Candied Yams, Black Eyed Peas, and the Chicken Jambalaya. So I bought it all and took it home for an amazing meal. I parked next to the building walked over and saw the owner stoking the coals in his BBQ 55 gallon drum pit. He was about to start making the beef tips for the nightly special. I was the only one at the counter but soon I was surrounding by black men. I was terrified I was going to be stabbed. Kidding. I ordered my food waited for it to be wrapped up and shot the shit with the other folks waiting for their carryout. They also were offered samples and we talked about the food and how good it was. A couple minutes later 2 African American Cleveland Police Officers came in to the store. They came in to check out if I was lost. Kidding. They came in to get their lunch to go.
I got to talk to the owner for a bit while sampling all the great southern comfort classics. He has owned King Kennedy since the 90’s and before that it turns out this cat served Bill Clinton, Muhammad Ali, and even Mr T. Some got food to go at King Kennedy and others he cooked for when he worked at Swingo’s back in their heyday. This guy has a huge food legacy in the city of Cleveland and if I were afraid to stop by this little dive on Woodland and E. 61st I never would have met him. I also never would have had the most amazing cornbread I ever ate in the city. The Jambalaya had amazing flavors, wasn’t too spicy and loaded with slow cooked tender fall off the bone chicken wings. The roast beef was slow cooked to absolute perfection and the beef gravy was thick and flavorful. The black eyed peas had a great southern flavor and were served over rice. The boiled cabbage side was not overly seasoned and complimented the meal well. The cornbread was seriously the best I have eaten in the city, sweet and moist. The berry pound cake was the near perfect ending with the candied yams for dessert. I never had true candied yams until yesterday, and they were sweet and delicious.
Food is colorblind. Good food can be in a fancy city center, at a farm in the country or in the hood. Food doesn’t discriminate. If you pass up on a place based on demographics or racially profile your restaurants you are going to miss out on a gem like King Kennedy. King Kennedy for the record I do not consider in the hood. It’s in the city of Cleveland. It is near the Woodland cemetery and just a little north east off the 490 East 55th exit. The sign is very discrete and blink and you might pass it. I am not saying it was the best thing I ever ate, but it was an amazing meal. The prices are very reasonable and they take debit and credit cards. I had a full dinner: Roast Beef, Black Eyed Peas, Boiled Cabbage, Cornbread. I added the Jambalaya, Pound Cake, Candied Yams, and an Orange Soda ad it was $23 and could easily feed 2 or more. I think a full dinner is enough to share for 2 there is so much food. King Kennedy is an amazing stop for a meal to go. You support a local small business and get to try something you might not have ever considered.