A Northeast Columbus carryout spot is serving up smothered pork chops, fried fish and community spirit.

In the time of Covid-19, people are looking to connect. The Good Kitchen 614, a year-old soul food restaurant on Sunbury Road, has just the recipe to do so. Six days a week, the carryout-only spot owned by Will and Serena Travis hands over heaping boxes of comfort food to walk-up regulars as well as Grubhub and Postmates drivers. But for one hour each on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the meals they serve to many of their customers are free.

Since the novel coronavirus hit Ohio, the restaurant has given away more than 500 meals to seniors over the age of 55 and to school-aged children. They provide 50 to 75 free meals each day, sometimes personally delivering them to homebound seniors who call ahead.

These meals are paid for by donations, mainly from their regular customers, says equity partner Jerome Ross. “We advertised [on Facebook and Instagram] that we were giving away free meals, and people started donating,” he says. The Good Kitchen 614 set up a Cash App account, and it’s been a sustainable source of donations ever since. People are becoming more and more generous, and one week, the restaurant received $300 from more than 20 donors.

There’s no better time for soul food. The dishes served up and delivered by the Travises bring a warmth and comfort typically found in crowded home kitchens with lots of friends and family nearby, and their hospitality fills a void. In a time when food is delivered to homes by third-party companies, the customer service element of restaurants feels lost, but The Good Kitchen 614 succeeds. On my first order, they called to tell me that they’d run out of a side I’d ordered; the staffer read the entire menu to me, to ensure I had
a replacement.

The food is simple and reasonably priced, the most expensive dish being the double-fried and smothered pork chops ($13). The fried fish (whiting, perch or tilapia) comes with three expertly fried, well-seasoned and generously sized pieces, plus two sides ($10). Don’t be fooled by the name of the fried chicken wings, which are far from dinky bar wings. The four tender wings are plenty filling and, again, only $10 with two sides.

There’s a slew of side dishes to choose from, and the greens (kissed with a splash of vinegar and cooked with pork) are a must-have. The sweet yams are a dessert disguised as a vegetable, and that’s totally OK with me. And while it may look unappetizing, the giant scoop of broccoli-and-cheese casserole is almost puddinglike and delightfully comforting.

But the king of the sides is the macaroni and cheese. The baked scoops of creamy cheese and noodles will bring back memories of childhood—the good ones—and make everything OK with the world. 

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