SAN ANTONIO -- Pain can produce progress. It did for John Mickel. The sting of segregation gave seed to a dream he is still bringing to fruition: Mickel's Country Cooking and Catering.
During his childhood, Mickel's mother worked in a restaurant. He recalled going to visit her and not being allowed in the front door.
"I went to the front door and they told me to go around back," he said. "As a young kid, I really didn't understand why I had to go to the back to see my mom."
The Hinesville, Georgia native said his mother hugged him as she saw the look of disappointment on his face. It was the reality of the late 1960s for African-Americans living in the south.
"I said, mom, one day I'm going to start Mickel's restaurant," he remembered. "She said that's a good idea."
The transition from his mother's cooking skills to food service in the United States Army. In fact, he won awards for his cooking. He also won the heart of wife Tiffany. She is the quiet force behind the business. Mickel describes her as the boss as they moved to the Alamo City.
"When we got to San Antonio I said I have to here and find something this going to be suitable for Mickel's," he said.
They selected country style cooking. Yes, most of the food would easily fit into the soul food category.
The Mickel's wanted their cuisine to be inclusive when they opened their first brick and mortar on West Popular. Their next stop for the business was 1638 East Houston for four years.
"And [in] 2011 I kind of went into semi-retirement," he said. "But my wife said she wanted a legacy."
The couple reopened in a concession truck at 1403 E. Commerce. It's a smaller more manageable space where patrons are still lining up for their brand of cooking.
How country is it? Neighborhood Eats got a taste of their menu which changes daily.
For us, the Mickel's started with stewed and barbecue pigs feet. They were good! And, we are not eaters of pigs’ feet.
Throw out the etiquette, here comes the turkey neck. Que Rico! The turnip greens were turned up [Colloquial for good]. The Lima beans with smoked hocks and potato salad are great. The cornbread muffins are delightful! Oh, and they were nice enough to lay Neighborhood Eats to rest with an incredible sweet potato pie.
Who washes their food down with green Kool-Aid? Apparently, the customers at Mickel's love it. Now, so do we.
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(© 2017 KENS)