First things first—these people don't want you to know their last names. No, they're not running from the law, but brother-sister duo Willie and Mari (Brock—shhh!), originally from Chicago, want to be on a first-name basis with you the moment you step inside Southern-homestyle Odessa's Cafe (the saucy joint has been calling the old Lagniappe space on Northeast Broadway home since last September). First names only, because, according to Willie, "We're a family-run business, and when you come to Odessa's it's like going to your grandma's."
That is, if your grandma puts barbecue sauce and brown sugar on just about everything she cooks. The 'cue sauce here is of the sticky-sweet tomato persuasion, and—strangely—raisins may have a hand in that. But mum's the word with Willie, because any day now he plans to bottle and sell the family-recipe sauce.
Right after you're seated by Mari, Willie often comes by with ramekins of complimentary, from-scratch soup—usually chicken noodle or brisket vegetable. And, shortly after, steamy corn-bread muffins studded with whole kernels arrive.
The menu is short and stout and patrons will feel the latter after a few visits. For lunch, choose from barbecue pork ribs, beef brisket or chicken, all slow cooked and slathered in sauce, with two sides ($8.95). Add one more side and you've got the dinner menu ($12.95). If you're hankering for all the sides—super-salty and -garlicky collard greens, mac 'n' cheese, sugary baked beans, candied yams, potato salad and slaw—and aren't dining alone, order the Taste of Chicago ($24.95). That's every side and meat on the Odessa's menu, along with one dessert.
The thing is, sides are only four bites big ("a real portion size," according to staffers). Ramekins are fine for the complimentary pre-dinner soup, but not for sides. And, another word of caution—like the sauce, most sides are candy-freak sweet.
Wash down a meaty, sweet Odessa meal with splits of champagne (Willie's fave), beer or wine—sourced next door from the Gem Wine Cellar. Or, of course, sweet tea. LIZ CRAIN.