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They're fried, they're ribs, they'll kill you, you don't care.

Image: Alice Levitt

Writers compare experiences to Dorothy stepping from black-and-white into the Technicolor of Oz all the time. We talk less about that return to colorless Kansas, the ashen monotony of life after the Yellow Brick Road. But that is precisely how I feel after eating fried ribs. The food I eat in the future may be more flavorful, better conceived, easily prettier, but it will not match the lusty glee of fried ribs. I blame Soul Food by Catherine for snatching the color away from my mealtimes. But in that moment, it was something.

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Image: Alice Levitt

There's not much else in the neighborhood, though a Timmy Chan's is right next door. The bars on the windows and doors may hint at why. Things happen at Catherine's at the speed people always talk about as typical of the molasses-slow South. A car broke down right in front of the restaurant's entrance while I was dining there and no one batted an eye. And I am grateful for the leisurely approach, because it means that not everything sits slowly seeping life under a heat lamp. My ribs were fried to order, which allowed more time for me to take in an episode of "Law & Order SVU" about a corpse found sodomized using a banana. Not the most appetizing viewing, perhaps, but it did nothing to dim the impact of the ribs.

I had the option to order them with fries or as a "dinner" with three sides. Red beans and rice counted as two, a good way to get some creamy, sauce-soaked rice when not ordering oxtails or turkey necks. The lady at the counter also recommended the collard greens, which were nicely seasoned but a bit disappointing in their lack of meat. Of course, the ribs made up for that.

There were five baby backs varying in height and width. Hot from the fryer, first impact burned the roof of my mouth. I didn't mind. Not with the rush of salty rendered lard that rushed into my mouth, nor with the crunch of densely spiced batter. That coating would have been excellent on a chicken thigh; on a tall flap of fatty pork, it was ecstatic. 

I'd be lying if I said I didn't need a nap after eating half the plate, but that could have been due as much to overstimulation as suddenly incipient cardiac issues. I hope. But it's worth taking a few hours off my life to truly see it in Technicolor.

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Timmy Chan's

$ American/New American, Chinese, Soul Food Multiple Locations

Local chicken and Chinese chain Timmy Chan's is famous for cheap fast Chinese food, and lots of it. With drive-thru service and more than ten locations in Ho...

Soul Food by Catherine

$ Soul Food 4202 W. Fuqua St.

Two words: Fried ribs. Moist, tender and crisped in well-spiced batter, they’re somehow even better than they sound. But it’s worth braving the barred window...