The Wellington
4869 Rainier Ave S, 722-8571

Tues-Fri 11 am-3 pm and 5-9 pm, Sat 11 am- 10 pm, Sun 11 am-4 pm and 5-9 pm.

The Wellington was once a tea room--all delicate china and jam and baked goods--and now it serves what is inclusively called Southern food, but still with a trace of the English parlor. Here is soul food all cleaned up and with a tie on--a sleek dining room, with warm colors and brownish abstract paintings and parlor-style chairs and a wall full of old mirrors, as well as a few African notes, like an interesting vase of flowers made of bright, African-patterned fabrics. Gumbo, after all, is African.

A plate of gumbo ($8.50) was sitting across from me, and it was all I could do to keep my fork out of it--smoky, heavy on the oregano, with bits of andouille and chicken that were impossibly yielding (usually gumbo's bits are a little chewy). My own plate--fried catfish ($12.50) with tangy collard greens and lovely, almost eggy, macaroni and cheese--was also quite good, with tender fish and crisp cornmeal, although everything could have been hotter (the service is slow, which might account for cooling time). There is nothing like a really hot piece of catfish.

The menu is small but complete--what more do you need than gumbo, smothered pork chops, fried chicken, catfish, red beans and rice? Well, you need side dishes, and lots of them; each entrée comes with two, and extras are $4 each. We added green beans--tender and meaty, although there was no sign of ham hocks (maybe in the broth?)--and a bright-tasting mix of okra, corn, and tomato. You are also given little jalapeño corn muffins, which are fine, although I couldn't stop thinking of Ms. Helen's sublime griddle cornbread in her little slice of a kitchen at Deano's. She is the gold standard for soul food, dressed up or not.

You also need peach cobbler ($5). Trust me.

Support The Stranger