Imagine a warm Sunday afternoon. The aroma of panfried fish, stoneground grits, sautéed greens, and homemade buttermilk biscuits fill your lungs with yearning and love. Unfortunately, this is not your grandmother’s cooking and can be found at Geechee Girl Rice Cafe in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia.
As a Southerner living in the Northeast, my mission for the past two years has been to find authentic southern food in Philadelphia. To my dismay, my journey has lead me to establishments that left my palette with much to be desired.
On the suggestion of a coworker, a Sunday afternoon led a friend and I to brunch at Geechee Girl Rice Cafe. The traditional low country shrimp and grits with a cranberry shrub was my pick, while my counterpart chose the spiced rubbed salmon with sweet potato home fries, sauteed greens,and a house brewed sweet mint iced tea. To finish off our brunch, we opted for the “Netta’s Sour Cream Pound Cake” and a decedent slice of pecan pie. After consuming every morsel, the feeling of accomplishment overcame me. Finally, I found my authentic Southern cooking in Philadelphia. Along with the amazing cuisine, the details in the decor add to the overall experience. The bright colored walls and screen porch door conjure up memories of sitting on the porch with my grandmother and the sweet aroma of cornbread lingering through the house.
If you are unfamiliar with Geechee or Gullah culture, let me briefly enlighten you. The Gullah people are descendants of enslaved Africans that lived along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia with small pockets along North Carolina and Florida. The Gullah people and their language is typically referred to as “Geechee.” Linguistically, Geechee is a creole based language including many native African words and takes much of its grammatical and sentence structures from traditional African language.
Much of the Geechee cuisine is based off of African and Southern influences. Because rice was such a largely cultivated crop along of the Southern coast, many Geechee dishes include rice. Sweet potatoes, grits, greens, and seafood are also used quite heavily in Geechee cuisine considering the coastal locale.
If you are visiting or a resident of Philadelphia and want to experience true and authentic southern cooking, then Geechee Girl Rice Cafe is the without a doubt the best place to try!
This story was curated by Rachel Hill