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This Phenix City soul food spot has the best mac and cheese. Sorry, mom.

This Phenix City soul food restaurant’s mac and cheese is better than grandma’s

Lily B. Rose is located at 1222 10th Ave. in Phenix City, Alabama and serves a variety of Southern home cooking classics including Fried Chicken, Fried Pork Chops, Baked Turkey Wings, Mac and Cheese, Collard Greens, fried cornbread, and Caramel Cake.
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Lily B. Rose is located at 1222 10th Ave. in Phenix City, Alabama and serves a variety of Southern home cooking classics including Fried Chicken, Fried Pork Chops, Baked Turkey Wings, Mac and Cheese, Collard Greens, fried cornbread, and Caramel Cake.

I wasn’t sure if I had walked into a restaurant or grandma’s kitchen.

I’d been craving fried chicken, and I finally settled that hankering on the other side of the river at Lily B. Rose in Phenix City. The small, soul food restaurant’s parking lot was nearly full around lunchtime earlier this week.

A recent transplant to Columbus, I’ve eaten at Minnie’s and Ed’s and a few other meat-and-three lunch spots, but I hadn’t made it to Lily B.’s yet. Given recent trips to Caribbean, Mexican and vegetarian spots, I figured it was time for us to eat something that more directly identifies with the American South.

I knew what I was ordering before I even made it through the door.

We walked to the cash register at the front of the restaurant to place our order. Underneath the register is the menu. The day’s entree and side offerings were handwritten on a large whiteboard that required me to crouch down and take a step back to see it all.

There’s a sign on the wall that was just to the right of my head that told me Lily B.’s isn’t fast food and to be patient. I took this as a good sign because I knew my fried chicken was coming fresh out of the fryer.

We placed our orders and found our seats. The Ledger-Enquirer’s video extraordinaire Mike Haskey got his food before me — turkey wings with dressing, green beans and purple hull peas. It even came with a container of cranberry sauce.

The portions were packed so heavy in my foam container that it barely stayed closed as I carefully walked my meal back to the table. A fresh roll sat atop two pieces of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens.

I went right for the dark-meat chicken. It was hot. Very hot. But I managed not to burn my mouth. The thin crunch of the skin was the first thing I noticed. The pepper notes come through at the beginning, then a little garlic. The chicken was juicy and cooked perfectly. There was no fat to navigate around, and I cleared the bones. I would have liked a tad more heat to the chicken’s spices but I sat silently enjoying pieces.

The first bite of the thick mac-and-cheese comes with a burst of creamy, heavy cheese and notes of pepper follow later. It may well have been the best I’ve ever had. Sorry, mom.

The collards were crisp, fresh and well-seasoned. Small pieces of pork were found buried under the green leaves. With a little pepper sauce, I was a happy man.

My only regret was ordering the roll instead of the cornbread. The roll was good and fresh. It was a large, soft rectangle. But the cornbread was something else. It was more like a hoecake — fluffy and circular. There was a little saltiness and a little sweetness to it that would have gone perfectly with the fried chicken.

If I were a greedier man, I may have taken Mike Haskey’s cornbread for myself.

We both paid about $9 for our mountains of food and a drink on the side — a great deal for the portions. I’ll surely be back.

Lily B. Rose

Address: 1222 10th Ave, Phenix City

Hours: Wed.: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Thurs-Sat.: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sun.: 12 - 5 p.m.

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