By Dawn Krebs
PORT ST. LUCIE - Delicious smells greeted me as I visited a new restaurant in Port St. Lucie recently.
Family's, a soul food restaurant, just opened on U.S. 1 across from Wal-Mart in Port St. Lucie.
The place lives up to its name, with the owner's personal family pictures on the wall and fresh flowers on every table.
The owner, Lillian Senior, took a moment from cooking to talk to me.
"I've always loved cooking," she said. "Growing up, I was cooking for my family when I was 11."
Now, she wants to share the homemade taste she has perfected in her own kitchen with everyone, and Family's opened on Aug. 4.
Ms. Senior told me everything in the restaurant is made from scratch, and more than a few original dishes show her special touches.
She also loves to meet people, and enjoys greeting everyone who visits.
"I'm a Christian, and this gives me the opportunity to meet more people and maybe be a small part in their lives."
I arrived for lunch, and I glanced over the menu and the many specials written on the board for the day.
The specials included a variety of sandwiches, an order of wings or two pieces of chicken. All the specials came with fries.
But I was leaning toward something a little heavier that day, and started out with an order of mini codfish cakes with mango chutney.
What arrived were small cakes that were crunchy on the outside and delicately seasoned on the inside. I found myself using my hands to eat them.
The cakes came with a dipping side of warm mango chutney, and I was looking around to see if they were selling it by the bottle. The blend of spices in the sauce complimented the cakes perfectly, and the flavor was both a little spicy and a little sweet. I couldn't stop eating it.
For lunch, I ordered the sautéed tilapia with sides of macaroni and cheese and collard greens.
While waiting, I glanced over the menu again. In addition to the crab cakes, they offer buffalo chicken dip or fried okra for an appetizer. My other lunch choices included a larger portion of the cod fish cakes, fried chicken or chicken tenders and sautéed chicken breast. On Saturdays, they serve smoked barbecue ribs.
My fish came out seasoned and flaky, with a mixture of onions, garlic and green and red habaneros peppers on top. The vegetables were sautéed and covered the large piece of fish, which covered most of the plate. Even with my appetite that day, I could only eat half of it.
But I was also saving room for my side dishes, and they didn't disappoint. My homemade macaroni and cheese was covered in a cheddar cheese blend and gave me that over-the-top cheesy taste with every bite.
The collard greens I loved right away. I could tell they had been made fresh, and the seasoning gave them a special taste. I found out afterwards they were seasoned with smoked turkey.
I even had a few bites of the potato salad and string beans, and the freshness of the food came through in every bite. The string beans were flavored the same way as the collard greens, and the potato salad was chunky, with pieces of egg and celery.
Other side dishes I can't wait to go back and try includes a Jamaican-style peas and rice dish, buttermilk biscuits and chicken corn chowder.
For those who can't get away for lunch, a delivery service is available as well. The menu can be found at that website at www.eatsdeliveredonline.com. Catering is also available.
"I've always wanted to do this," she said with a smile. "I wanted to reflect who I am with my food."
Family's, a soul food restaurant, is located at 10786 South U.S. 1 in Port St. Lucie. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. A menu is online at www.familys.us. For more information, call (772)323-0619.