When it comes to restaurant recommendations, "word of mouth" takes on a new meaning because good food gets people talking faster than most other topics.
That's where Nov's Soul Spot comes in. Like a recent Dish column about local restaurants taking over spaces of their departed brethren, Nov's is off F Street in the former home of Joseph's Italian Restaurant, which closed last year.
"There's a lot of parking but it's kind of hidden from the street," said owner Leon Denweed. "It's just a weird location but it's working for us."
That's where the aforementioned word of mouth comes in. Denweed has gained a following through his previous restaurants — Big Denweed's Smokehouse on Stine Road and Denweed's Cafe on Sillect Avenue — as well as his catering business.
Denweed named the restaurant for his mother, Novelette Denweed, who instilled a love of cooking in him at a young age.
"This is to honor my mother. We lost my mom in September 2001. She's where I get my culinary skills from."
A variety of Southern favorites populate the menu at Nov's Soul Spot including fried catfish, snapper and shrimp, fried chicken wings and smothered pork chops. Specials include cheesy grits and shrimp, barbecue including ribs on Thursdays and oxtails and chitlins on the weekends.
Plates start at $15 and most include two sides, with options such as mac and cheese, fries, collard greens, yams, fried okra and black-eyed peas
For those who have never tried his food, Denweed recommends they start with the fried catfish.
"I have people from the South come in all the time or they come up from L.A. and they try the fish. They say, 'I don’t have to go to L.A. for this.'
"There are folks from Louisiana saying, ‘This fish is even as good as ours.'"
He also recommends the pork chops that are smothered in what Denweed calls "40 weight gravy," a term used in Southern cooking that may be a reference to the sauce's viscosity, which may resemble that of motor oil.
"It's a brown gravy I make with onion and bell peppers and garlic. You put it over the pork chops, let them cook in the oven for awhile."
Nov's is busiest on the weekends when oxtail plates frequently sell out.
"We smother them in gravy, serve them with good old-fashioned cornbread and some sides, always the two sides."
Chitlins, small intestines of the pig that are cooked slowly in a pressure cooker, are another weekend special that sells out.
Desserts are limited with an eye on expanding once dine-in service is possible, Denweed said.
"Right now we just do banana pudding and peach cobbler. It’s only takeout and we don't want to overextend ourselves. We’ll add a couple more cakes — pecan cake, pound cake."
Denweed also has plans to expand the dine-in menu with chowder and etoufee, a spicy Cajun stew with seafood, as well as daily specials.
For now, the restaurant keeps plugging away with takeout business. Denweed said he's excited for people to come try what they're dishing up.
"The food is amazing. Come get a little taste of my mom and myself and you’ll walk away happy."
Nov's Soul Spot, 3013 F St., is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The menu, including rotating specials, is posted at facebook.com/bigdenweedssmokehouse. Call 873-4353 to order.