If you're not a member of the Morning Star Baptist or Metropolitan Baptist churches or a resident on Middleton Street, you likely haven't yet heard about Anns Heavenly Cuisine. But beyond an unassuming side door with one little sign hanging over it, down a flight of stairs and amidst a plain-Jane church basement with eight yellow-clad tables and 32 folding chairs, Annie Moore is serving up the real southern country cooking to the public every weekend. The real.
There's an after-church crunch on Sundays, sometimes a rush on fried fish on Fridays, but other times it's just Annie Moore, cooking up one plate special for the only customer in the room.
"I've been cooking since I was about nine," said Moore last week, sitting at one of her yellow tables with her daughter, Melissa Ezedi. "I hated it when I was small but my kids said: 'You should cook. That's what you do.'"
"It's only two of them at home," cuts in Ezedi. "But she cooks like there are ten all the time. She gets mad when we don't come and eat All the neighborhood kids used to come to my house to eat, she's always done it."
Ezedi was born and raised in the Ashmont area, but her mother, Mrs. Moore, grew up in Reform, Alabama, on her father's farm. He grew peanuts, sweet potatoes, cotton and vegetables and raised chickens and cows.
"We never bought food because he did it all," said Moore.
She moved to Boston to catch up with her sister, she said, in 1964. Eventually she found her way to a job with the MBTA and drove a Green Line trolley for 23 years.
The thing about Moore's cooking is the sides. Yes, the chicken is the perfect mix of juicy and crispy, as is the fish, and the ribs are popular, too, but the sides stand out among many soul food locales where taste gets lost in production and on the steam tables.
The collard greens shift with Moore's mood, but often include a mix of greens and maybe cabbage and okra, too, and spicy jalapenos. One customer, she said, recently ordered only greens and cornbread. Spices are the motif in the yams, and the traditional mac and cheese is the real stuff.
Moore even has porgies on the menu. The boney fish native to the northeast takes a little talent to eat.
"This is one of those nuggets that people come out of the woodwork for, to get some of that southern cuisine," said Melissa's husband Ego Ezedi, now director of the Roxbury YMCA and a assistant minister at Morning Star Baptist. Part of the family, Ego Ezedi samples Moore's cooking often. Last Friday he sat down to a giant plate of fried fish and fries.
"Lord bless this place," he had said upon opening the door and walking in.