Restaurant review: Southern food finds home in two Salt Lake valley strip malls

Dining out • Mama's Plantation and Papa O's serving soul food and Southern hospitality.
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Fried chicken, collard greens and sweet tea — this is a meal that will make those who love soul food and Southern hospitality smile.

While Utah is far removed from the South, Papa O's and Mama's Plantation Restaurant are bringing the soul of the South to Salt Lake County.

Mama's Plantation Restaurant • This restaurant isn't new, although it has had several locations over the years. Started in 1978 by Rosemary Cosby, it is now owned and run by her daughter Rosalind Cazares. The location has meandered between West Valley and Salt Lake and now calls a strip mall in Midvale — next to Walmart — home.

It is nondescript from the outside — there is no sign, so look for the neon catfish in the window. The inside is reminiscent of a doll house with lots of pink and lace accents.

This sit-down restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner anytime, and it might remind you of eating dinner in front of two flat-screen televisions at Grandma's house. That's OK, because the staff is friendly and makes customers feel like family.

It's nice to have a hearty option for breakfast that isn't a coffee or bagel chain. But this food isn't worth the cost. A skillet breakfast runs $9.99 for fried potatoes, eggs, onions and tomatoes, toast or pancakes and choice of ham, bacon or sausage. The country breakfast ($6.99 two eggs or $8.99 three eggs) comes with potatoes or grits, choice of ham, bacon or sausage and toast or pancakes. Breakfast sandwiches are served on untoasted wheat bread with a generous slab of ham, bacon or sausage and an egg for $3.50. Sides, such as toast or grits, cost $1.99 — but you only get about a half cup of grits without even a dollop of butter.

Lunch prices are better, with all hamburgers and sandwiches under $10.

It's dinner and family packs that are the best value. The full combo ($18.99) includes fried chicken, fried catfish, three ribs, salad, cornbread and two sides. For $17.25 you can get the regular combo (everything minus the ribs) that will feed a hungry man and then some.

Mama's serves the best fried catfish I've had in the state. Battered in a cornmeal crust, the fresh fish was fried at the right temperature and had no greasy residue. The fried chicken is just as pleasing with a crunchy, well-seasoned crust.

Chicken buckets are available with eight or 10 (dark or mixed) pieces ranging from $13.99 to $19.99, which also includes two family-size sides and four pieces of sweet and moist cornbread, biscuits or bread.

For sides, enjoy creamy macaroni and cheese, crispy pan-fried potatoes, hearty collard greens, fresh coleslaw, corn, black-eyed peas, baked beans, fried okra, yams, hush puppies or mashed potatoes — all $1.99 à la carte.

Mama's also offers Southern specialties such as frog legs ($19.99 for three or $24.99 for four) and Hoppin' John ($8.99) loaded with rice, black-eyed peas and a huge ham hock.

Sadly, they were out of sweet potato pie ($3.99 a slice or $12.99 whole pie).

Papa O's • This unassuming restaurant in a Draper strip mall lacks décor but makes up for it with down-home comfort food.

Side dishes are the standouts: earthy collard greens with ham hocks; grits with a cheddar bite; three kinds of beans (lima, baked and green); stewed tomatoes and okra; candied yams; and mashed potatoes and gravy. Two side dishes come with each entrée or can be ordered individually for $1.80 each.

The fried chicken was good, too. It had a crispy, crunchy exterior coating that cloaked juicy, tender meat. A two-piece meal (includes two sides) is $5.99, while a three-piece is $8.95. The same fried chicken can be found on the chicken and waffles entrée ($8.99) — although the waffles were a ho-hum effort and we were unable to locate any syrup or butter to bring the sweet and savory elements of this classic together.

Fried catfish, a fried and smothered pork chop, pot roast and meatloaf round out Papa O's offerings. Daily specials are posted on the restaurant's Facebook page and on the board before the cashier. They also have a Saturday brunch that's less Southern and features several versions of French toast ($6-8).

Cornbread ($1.80), served as mini loaves in three flavors (regular, jalapeño and blueberry/pineapple), had a moist interior with just the right touch of sweetness.

Less successful were the fried green tomatoes that were a bit dry. Worse were the hush puppies that were overfried. Too bad, since the seasoning combination had potential.

Unfortunately, at Papa O's the atmosphere is unpleasantly fast-foodish and all the food is served in Styrofoam containers whether you plan to eat in or take it to-go. Also, service can be slow. This is partly because your cashier is often the cook. A sign in the window indicated they were hiring.

One can only hope that the pace of food preparation will pick up when the owner is no longer the one-man show. Still, most of the food is worth waiting for — so order a glass of sweet tea ($1.50) and enjoy. —


Mama's Plantation Restaurant

Food • Hhj

Mood • Hhj

Service • HH

Noise • bb

Soul food and Southern hospitality in Midvale. Don't miss the fried chicken bucket, the catfish or the frog legs.

Location • 7194 Union Park Ave., Midvale; 801-561-7272

Online •

Hours • Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Children's menu • No

Prices • $-$$

Liquor • No

Reservations • No

Takeout • Yes

Wheelchair access • Yes

Outdoor dining • No

On-site parking • Yes

Credit cards • All major —


Papa O's

Food • HH

Mood • H

Service • H

Noise • b

Southern-style comfort food including fried chicken, collard greens and pot roast.

Location • 11483 S. State St., Draper; 801-619-3503

Online •

Hours • Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Sunday.

Children's menu • Yes

Prices • $

Liquor • No

Reservations • No

Takeout • Yes

Wheelchair access • Yes

Outdoor dining • No

On-site parking • Yes

Credit cards • All major