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Fried catfish and peach cobbler are advertised as best sellers at Karim’s Cobbler Shop and Deli. This little hole-in-the-wall located on Jefferson Street between Chase Field and US Airways Center serves guests an array of Southern-style dishes.
When I looked on the website, I was excited to get a taste of some Southern favorites. I grew up most of my life in North Carolina, smelling the aroma of fresh baked cornbread, homemade sweet potato pie and fried chicken and was hoping Karim’s could satisfy my craving. However, the dishes I tried did not live up to all of my expectations.
The fried catfish is considered the favorite, so I ordered a catfish and shrimp plate with red beans and rice. Then to please my barbecue craving, the barbecue chicken sandwich looked tasty with chicken gumbo and a side of corn bread. To drink, I had to try the sweet tea, and for a little extra sweetness, I ordered the classic peach cobbler with ice cream. The food and drink totaled less than $25 – well worth it for the portions given.
While I waited for my order, I sat down at one of the few tables in the restaurant.
Karim’s Cobbler is not very big and the decorations inside are scarce. It looks more like a to-go place where people call in orders and pick them up or where people grab food and go to a game or concert.
The food arrived in about 10-15 minutes, served on Styrofoam plates with plastic utensils. There was only one other occupied table so I was not expecting such a long wait, but when a friend went the other day, she waited nearly 30 minutes.
First, I tasted the barbecue sandwich and it was disappointing as a smothering amount of sauce masked the taste of any meat and made the bun soggy. The sauce itself did not taste bad, but the amount of sauce used in combination with the chicken did not please my taste buds, but I would be willing to go back and try the barbecue beef sandwich to see if the flavors are different.
Next came the chicken gumbo. Because of its grayish creamy color, this dish did not look appetizing, but it was tasty. The gumbo was one of my favorite dishes of the meal because it included vegetables –– okra, onions, tomatoes, carrots –– with shredded chicken in a creamy base. It was not too salty and had a gravy-like texture and taste.
When I asked an employee how the gumbo was made, she replied that the woman who makes it does something different each time. Sometimes they add more okra while other times she uses less because people do not always like it, she said.
The menu also includes an okra gumbo.
I found the variations on different dishes interesting, but it only works when the dish is consistently good.
These inconsistencies were found when I compared some of the same dishes I had with a friend who had been to Karim’s. For example, we both ordered red beans and rice on different days. On the day she went, the red beans and rice were dry and crusty, but on the day I went, they were soupy. Personally I like the soupy, Puerto Rican-style red beans and rice. I added some hot sauce to mine to spice it up. The beans were not what I expected, but they were definitely edible. In the case of my friend, I do not know who likes dried beans and rice, but I know I do not.
I also ordered the catfish and shrimp. The outside of the catfish was warm to the touch and looked brown and crispy, which was a plus because sometimes it can be almost mushy –– so they did a good job of frying it. Inside there was a lot of catfish, not just breading. However, the shrimp were nonexistent under the fried breading — when biting into them I only tasted crumbs.
I would not order this dish again because I am not a huge fan of catfish, but those who love catfish will probably enjoy it. The portion size was huge: two pieces of catfish, three shrimp with a side and half of a piece of wheat toast.
My least favorite dish was the cornbread. All I wanted was warm, moist and buttery cornbread and I received what seemed like warmed-up-in-the-microwave, dry cornbread with a side of butter. I was very disappointed.
The best parts of the meal were the sweets: sweet tea and peach cobbler with ice cream. If sweet tea is something that pleases your palate, than I would order it here. I have not had sweet tea in a long time and this was just as good as the places in the South. Finally, the cobbler came out warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. I enjoyed every bit of it. Each scoop I had a little ice cream with the crumbly cinnamon cobbler topping and sweet peaches. There are so many great dessert places in the downtown area that I am not sure if I would go back and get the cobbler again, but it is worth at least one try.
My experience at Karim’s Cobbler was not the best, but I am willing to go back and try other things on the menu. Based on my experience, I would only go for dessert, sweet tea and maybe the gumbo, unless you are a catfish person. On a positive note, the people there were very helpful and friendly to me, so it did leave a little bright spot in my day.
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