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He Said: Okra is home to far too many unique, tasty Southern options

(Instagram Photo/@okra_az)

Seventh Street in Phoenix is full of new food venues that is turning the area into the go-to place to eat.

This includes Okra, located just south of Bethany Home Road.

It was my first visit to this complex and I drove around a bit trying to figure out how to get to their parking lot, so let me save you the confusion: I recommend turning east down Palo Verde Drive off of Seventh Street. There, you’ll find a large parking lot waiting for you.

Now that we got you there, let’s talk about the amazing food.

Cullen Campbell has created another wonderful menu, this time focused on Southern food. He began to miss the comforting Southern style food — he grew up in Tennessee — and, after some visits back South, Okra was born.

This isn’t just your typical heavy, fried menu, although there there are plenty of those options. It is wide and varied, with subtle changes to your typical Southern recipes.

It was difficult to decide what to choose from the menu. Do we do a table of shared plates, our own entrees or maybe share an entrée? We got a little help from the chef and the staff, all of whom were happy to tell us their favorites.

Our shared plates included fried mac and cheese balls, hush puppies, braised greens and pork bites, fried dilly beans and comeback sauce, fried chicken skins and honey hot sauce and smoked chicken wings.

Menu items like these are hard to resist, which is why I recommend bringing a few friends along so that you can try a large variety like we did.

The mac and cheese balls were nice and crispy on the outside while being soft and cheesy in the center and plated on a marinara sauce that was the perfect accompaniment.

The hush puppies don’t come with the usual tartar sauce, but instead with goat cheese and a small cucumber salad, turning these fried corn breads into a more elegant, lighter fare.

Braised greens and pork bites were delicious in their vinegar-based sauce. The pork bellies were so moist and flavorful while being crispy on the outside and the greens almost melted in your mouth.

I had never heard of fried dilly beans, but they are a staple in the Carolinas. Essentially, they are crispy green beans fried in tempura, very different from the fried green beans you might get at a chain restaurant. These are so crisp on the inside and out but the nice, light breading doesn’t make you feel heavy afterwards.

Speaking of crispy, the fried chicken skins were so crispy and delicious I could have ate an entire plate while watching some college football game. They felt just like a perfect game day treat. The slightly spicy honey was just sweet enough to counter balance the salty skins.

Now, if the skins aren’t something you want to try, maybe the smoky chicken wings will curb your chicken craving. They have a wonderful, deep, smoky flavor on them and with the homeboy’s hot sauce and white barbecue sauce to add even more flavor it just can’t be beat.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, we also tried out the pot pie. This delicious pie sitting in a plate of mash was addicting. Instead of the usual chicken, this was filled with veggies and pork cheek.

The pie crust itself was beautiful and appealing, with an almost sweet or vanilla flavor to it. As the weather starts to cool off and the evenings get chilly, this is the prefect dish to look forward to.

In the end, I unfortunately didn’t answer the question of what to order. I would do each and every one of these dishes again. Each trip to Okra is going to be another hard choice and factor in that there is even more I didn’t get to try, so I’m in for a lot of hard choices in the future.

For more information on Okra, visit WhereShouldWeEat.com.