Pulling in to the parking lot of The Junction Kitchen and Provisions, I was struck by the delicate blooms of the pale green and pink flowers of a mimosa tree. It looked out of place growing between concrete slabs and recycling bins.
But this area of North Charleston was near the gardens of the Royal Botanist of France, Andre Michaux, who brought the silk tree (mimosa), camellia and crepe myrtle to North America and Charleston. Could this tree have its roots in the arboretum of Michaux?
What a wonderful omen that would be for Kimana Littleflower and Legare Queen, current owners of the property that once housed Port City Pizza.
The mimosa is a symbol of caring and sensitivity. When Littleflower and Queen shuttered the former pizza operation, they hosted a party for Port City’s owners and kept their signature “Philly Cheesesteak” on the menu of North Charleston’s new breakfast and lunch cafe.
The cafe is located not far from Sesame Burgers and Beer and Quarterman Park (known to the locals as “Duck Pond”) on Spruill Avenue.
Littleflower was schooled in the hospitality arts at Coast Bar and Grill and 39 Rue de Jean. Husband Queen spent more than a decade at Jestine’s Kitchen before moving on to Madra Rua in Park Circle. They opened their breakfast-lunch cafe in February.
Junction Kitchen is a labor of love and sweat-equity. They have assumed a humble posture in both their decor and their menu.
Stools are covered in kitschy fabric broadcasting “let’s taco about it,” “death before decaf” and “give me the food and get out of my way.” Chairs are cushioned with the burlap of coffee bean sacks.
Galvanized panels and repurposed planks shore up the bar and dining room with rustic sass. Generous arrangements of fresh flowers soften the look.
Shutters are used to partition the dining areas and booths. High tops, a community table and a short run of a banquette provide ample seating in this right-sized cafe.
Junction Kitchen offers a breakfast menu all day, luncheon sandwiches and specials make an appearance around 11 a.m. and small plates and snacks such as homemade chips (white and sweet potato), candied bacon nuts, black bean pico and fried limas work for nibbling during happy hour. Bar snacks, mostly priced at $4, have included shrimp taco, black bean cake, squash fritter and deviled eggs.
The menu covers standard breakfast and lunch fare with just enough “customization” to distinguish itself.
The strawberry and blistered tomato jam are homemade and gelled with natural pectin, keeping them soft and fluid. The strawberry is a sloppy pleasure over a biscuit better served warm. The tomato, however, was too sweet and cloying as it dressed an arugula salad companion to tomato pie.
Vegetarians will trumpet shiitake bacon in a vegetarian BELT with egg, lettuce and tomato, and an “energy” salad bolstered with grains and beans as well as fresh and flexible greens.
A “buzzed doughnut” takes bacon and jolts it with a coffee rub. Topped with an egg and positioned on its biscuit donut base, it ramps up the caffeine quotient with a side of java dip.
Queen’s lunch menu is an antidote to chain fares and mixes it up enough to keep your interest.
Salads are generous tumbles of greens and can be topped with chicken or hard-cooked eggs.
Sandwiches served on Amoroso’s Hearth Baked Rolls need their bready innards removed to properly cradle a Philly cheesesteak or the Italian hoagie.
“Mom’s Tomato Onion Pie” is on the lunch menu and whole pies are available for carry out. My portion suffered from the soggy wetness of the tomato’s juice coupling with an under-baked crust contrasting sharply with the layers of tomatoes, onion slices and cheese. The flavors on target; the cooking time, misguided.
Littleflower and Queen are putting their efforts into an earnest neighborhood spot. With Aunt Bea’s Restaurant and Richard’s Coffee N More closed, The Junction Kitchen is on its way to creating community as only food can.
A cross section of North Charleston makes its way into this friendly neighborhood cafe. Contractors, politicians, neighbors and friends are finding it as a gathering place for simple and satisfying food.
The kitchen can get backed up as they manage the carry-out orders and larger groups of diners. The breakfast cooks could benefit from a mise en place that fosters speed and you might find yourself flagging down the server to get your check, but none of it feels bothersome. Neighborhood restaurants are our community catalysts, and for that we grant them a bit of patience.