I was on Winchester near I-385 when I wrapped up work Tuesday and knew I wouldn't have time to fix dinner at home since I needed to get cleaned up and out the door in time to catch California punk legends Social Distortion at Minglewood Hall in Midtown. I knew from a banner outside the restaurant that Blocker's Soul Food offers $5 dinner specials on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights; so I decided to swing by, dine in, and grab something to go for my wife.
I've tried to eat at Blocker's in the past but they are closed until dinner time on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. There are days they are open for lunch and even times they serve breakfast, so call first if you are thinking about going by during the day since the hours are a little random. There used to be a Blocker's in Raleigh, but it had become Lorenzo's Soul Food by the time I ate there.
Mac and Cheese is still universally regarded as a "vegetable" in the South.
I arrived a little before five so I had to wait a minute in the parking lot for the restaurant to open. I was glad to see several additional cars pull up waiting with me for the doors to open since that indicated good food within. Blocker's is located in a large, two-story building just a couple blocks away from Ken Neely's Hickory Bar-B-Que. The two restaurants combine to make that little stretch of Winchester one of the city's best values in well-cooked, affordable Southern fare.
I ordered the backed dark chicken, turnip greens and pinto beans for myself. I got the same thing except with mac and cheese instead of turnip greens for my wife, who was disappointed to realize she could have had turnip greens too since she ordered based on a photo I texted her of the menu board. I've noticed that it seems pretty common for soul food places to have foods available that aren't listed on the menu, so it helps to chat with the staff about everything that is available.
The food was all well-cooked and seasoned. And despite the low prices, the restaurant has table service, a bar offering draft beer and real plates and flatware. I appreciated eating on a real plate, since so many of the soul food and barbecue places I visit use styrofoam clamshells even for dine-in customers. It feels incredibly wasteful to get an order of food in one of the clamshells, immediately eat everything right there and then throw the big container in the trash a few feet from where it was handed to you a few minutes earlier.
My server was extremely friendly; checking back with me throughout the meal and timing my wife's to-go order so it came out hot with my check. There were plenty of other customers, both dining in and picking up to-go orders, during my visit. I can understand why Blocker's has developed such a following. By definition, soul food uses cheap ingredients. By keeping prices low enough to attract plenty of customers the restaurant seems to be able to cook in large enough batches to take advantage of those low food costs while turning out meals quick enough to make sure that everything coming from the kitchen is fresh. For five bucks I was able to enjoy a quick meal that was far better than anything I could have grabbed from a fast food drive-thru.