Restaurant Reviews

Mazie's Soul Food Shines in Liberty City

Mazie's Soul Food Restaurant and Take-Out is, at first glance, not much to look at. It appears to have once been a Dairy Queen-like operation — a stand-alone box painted orange-toned yellow and brown and fronted by an angled take-out window. This is a poor part of town, and some patrons might not feel comfortable coming here.

Now that I've scared off those not willing to take the road less traveled, let me tell the rest of you why I like this place. For starters, the turkey wings: Chopped on each end, they look a little like ribs and boast fully seasoned flavor beneath glistening mahogany skin.

Mazie's, whose motto is "where the homies meet," has been slinging homespun, Southern-style American fare for more than nine years. Mazie Johnson sold the place awhile back and returned to her native Georgia, but she has family members still working here — and working it well.

The brisk breakfast business begins around 7 a.m., with eggs, toast, home fries or grits, and bacon, ham, or sausage for $3.25. À la carte breakfast sandwiches contain eggs on toasted white bread with cheese and choice of breakfast meats ($2.75 to $3.50). A Mazie's T-shirt hanging in the window touts two breakfasts for $5, but no other signage says so.

Lunch specials are just $4.50 and include choice of one starch, one side, and a main course. Offerings include oxtail stew, conch, shrimp, barbecue ribs, fried fish, hamburgers, and meat loaf. Dinner specials, available at lunchtime as well, range from $6 to $9 (a T-bone steak) and come with one starch and two sides.

Here is what we received for $21.13: lemon-pepper chicken wings, turkey wings, a smothered pork chop, baked chicken with barbecue sauce, mashed potatoes with gravy, collard greens, stewed okra and tomato, yellow rice, rice and beans, macaroni and cheese, black-eyed peas, lima beans, and a wedge of homemade yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Tax is included, but don't forget to put some bills in the tip jar.

We tarried about for some time while Mazie's daughter Jasmine aided two cooks in producing our bounty and packaging it into Styrofoam containers. A television set in the small, two-stool waiting area was tuned to CNN, and some static-laced music strained over a radio in the kitchen — which is open and separated from the front by a counter. The lemon-pepper chicken wings, fried and tossed with citrus juice and seasoning, sat on that counter while the rest of our order was completed. The wings possessed a zestier bite than those flavored with premixed lemon-pepper spice, and by the time the check arrived, we had eaten every last one of them. Barbecue and hot barbecue versions are offered too (the hot wings are hot). Three wings cut into six pieces cost $3; a $4.50 "combo" adds soda and fries.

A baked chicken drumstick and breast came crisp-skinned and assertively seasoned, with a bitingly sweet barbecue sauce on the side. The pork chop was flattened, fatty, and tastily smothered in gravy. It also was served in a white bread sandwich, which appears to be something of a house signature at lunchtime.

Comfort-food side dishes are prepared in a simple, customary style; the only disappointment was a dry mac and cheese. I especially enjoyed the collard greens with flecks of pork, black-eyed peas, lima beans, and mashed potatoes — even if the last tasted as though prepared from powder. Yes, that's right, instant mashed potatoes; this ain't the Fontainebleau. And to put things in perspective: An acquaintance recently reported paying $18 for a cocktail at that gorgeously refurbished hotel. No liquor, beer, or wine is served at Mazie's, but sodas are just 65 cents.

Jasmine efficiently worked the front, from getting complicated orders straight (we requested all different starches and vegetables with each of numerous main courses) to handing us napkins upon keenly noting our need for such as we devoured the wings. She also apologized for the wait, suggesting that if we phoned in our order next time, everything would be ready when we arrived (worthwhile advice for anyone considering multiple meals). I have long maintained that if managers of fine-dining establishments occasionally paid visits to diners, coffee shops, and soul food joints, they would likely pick up hints on how to make customers feel cared for. Not that Mazie's is about service or ambiance. It's simply solid, soulful soul food at a bargain price — to go.

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Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein