Kountry Kitchen serves free food to people in need for Christmas
~ December 25, 2014
Phones have been ringing off the hook at Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place. People have been coming in all morning, lining up for free food and toys.
At the cashier's table, a volunteer is busy answering the phone. A few feet away is an assembly line of more volunteers scooping healthy servings of mashed potatoes, green beans and chicken from big pans into individual Styrofoam boxes. A second group packs the orders in plastic bags. Meanwhile, another group is waiting to deliver the food to homes.
More volunteers are in the kitchen, cooking and replenishing the pans as they run out of food. In another room, some are giving toys to children younger than 12.
That's what Christmas morning was like at Kountry Kitchen, a family-owned restaurant on the Near Northside. That's what Christmas morning has been like for the past six years.
Cynthia Wilson and her husband, Isaac, who have owned the restaurant at East 19th Street and College Avenue for nearly 30 years, started the annual Christmas Drive Giveaway to give back to the community. Every Christmas morning, people in need call the restaurant and ask for food to be delivered to their homes. Others line up outside. More than 175 volunteers help prepare, pack and deliver about 2,000 meals.
This year, Wilson said, was a bit different. It was a much busier Christmas morning.
"We've been inundated," she said.
The food drive usually goes from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The first year, it went on until about 5 p.m. This year, dozens were already in line by 8:30 a.m., Wilson said.
"We're getting ready to run out of food," volunteer coordinator Regina Marsh said. "This has never happened before."
It was only 11 a.m. By 11:15, they stopped taking calls. Marsh said they would run out of food by noon. Meanwhile, a group from a homeless shelter arrived. More people were lining up. Several orders were still waiting to be packed.
That means one thing, Wilson said.
"It's a tough time for people," she said. "You see all kinds of people, young, old, black, white."
The volunteer who had been answering phone calls agrees. He said he had taken about 50 calls in two hours.
"We've got to start addressing poverty in a meaningful way," Joe Hogsett said.
The Democratic mayoral candidate and former U.S. attorney said the rising level of poverty is the common denominator for crime and lack of education.
Hogsett said he and his wife, Steph, had an open morning, so they decided to come to Kountry Kitchen to volunteer for a few hours. He said he was given the easier job. His wife worked in the kitchen, helping to replenish the pans of food every 10 minutes.
"We want to make sure we're helping the community on Christmas Day," Hogsett said.
These Are 21 of the Best Soul Food Kitchens in the Country
~ published on Thrillist.com, April 28, 2014
Things are pretty big on Kountry Kitchen's regular menu dominated by choose-your-meat combos including chicken-fried steak, meatloaf, and chops, plus catfish, shrimp, and whiting on the surf side. But the place is a haven for communal eating, with family-style portions of all their mainstays designed to serve up to 25 people. But even if you split the 10-serving fried catfish with one buddy, save room for Ms. Jessie's caramel pound cake and homemade cobblers, which have nothing to do with shoes and everything to do with euphoria.
Recently I spent a few days in (Naptown) Indianapolis. A colleague suggested I check out the ‘Kountry Kitchen’ Soul Food restaurant. Carl really likes the food there and was actually salivating while he was talking about it. lol Carl knows a thing or two about good food, So, I put it on my ‘Dine Indie’ priority list.
The restaurant is located just off of Downtown Indianapolis. It’s just an 8 minute cab ride from major Hotels and the Indianapolis Convention Center. If you plan to go, you may want to go for Breakfast, lunch or get there early for dinner. Their hours are Mon.-Sat, 7-7, Sun. 8-7. I decided to go there for lunch.
I must say, it did’t look like much from the outside but looks can be deceiving. Upon entering the restaurant the first thing I noticed was a huge Indianapolis Colts banner. Here I am, a huge ‘Chicago Bears’ fan; smack dab in the middle of ‘Colt’s Country’. I didn’t hold that against them, besides I was hungry enough to eat the banner. Watch the quick step down when you enter the front door.
The Owners and Staff of Kountry Kitchen would like to extend a special “Thank You” to each of our loyal local and new Customers, who patronized our business during the week of Superbowl XLVI. Kountry Kitchen had the opportunity to serve everyone from regular customers to noted celebrities such as, Ceelo Greene, Superbowl half-time entertainer, and Peter King, the legendary writer for Sports Illustrated.
Additionally, we can’t forget our hometown family member nationally recognized comedian, Mike Epps. Mike really brought exceptional recognition to Kountry Kitchen by actually videotaping a segment for the “Extra Show”, with host A J Caldwell, here at the restaurant. Additional celebrities to grace our establishment included Evelyn Lozada, from “Basketball Wives”, along with fiancé, Chad Ochocinco and their family. Shannon Sharp, NBC Sports, stopped by one evening and was in heaven when he tasted our delicious food! Shannon even wanted to stay and try our breakfast menu but his limited time ran-out! He stated that he is going to make a special return flight to come for breakfast, however!
We could not go without mentioning late night talk show host, Jimmy Fallon. We at Kountry Kitchen had the distinct pleasure of meeting and serving many wonderful people during the Superbowl festivities. We wish to sincerely say, “Thank you for choosing us!” Other noted TV personalities and athletes who visited the Kountry Kitchen were: Keith David, Chris Carter, Tony Dungy, Big Gipp, Warren Sapp, Mike Florio, Mark Lazarus, Dick Ebersol, Rodney Harrison, Vince Wilfork, Lavar Arrington and countless others.