Jermaine and Mary Zachary bring a family feeling to Aunt Mary’s Soul Food & Crab House in Milford./Photo by Deny Howeth
When I first caught wind of Aunt Mary’s Soul Food & Crab House in Milford, my initial thought was that this can’t be as good as it sounds. But, the online menu lured me, so on a trip back from Rehoboth to Wilmington, I made a point to hit this hidden-in-plain-site gem for a long lunch.
What I found was as close to a genuine Southern food experience as many Delawareans will get without traveling outside the state line and heading due south for about 300 miles.
On my visit, “Aunt” Mary Zachary is in the kitchen, busily supervising preparation of the items on the compact but diverse menu, heavy on crab and shrimp put devoid of pork products, while her son Jermaine mans the register and preps foam take-out platters for hungry customers who’ve traveled miles to Aunt Mary’s door on the basis of a previous visit or just word of mouth.
Looking at the menu, I’m torn. The humble yard bird sets the standard for Southern cooking, because if you can’t get the chicken right, why attempt anything else? So, chicken it will be—two pieces of dark meat, thank you—with mac ‘n cheese and collard greens to fill out the order. But the absence of that third side is like a missing limb. Without it, the meal feels incomplete, so I opt for the sweet potatoes, too.
That earns me a fist bump from Jermaine. “You know how to eat,” he says with a nod and a grin. I top off the meal with a homemade sweet tea served in a 32-ounce container of the sort you’d normally see filled with a large order of wonton soup.
I tuck in, but any knowledge about how to eat doesn’t help increase my stomach’s capacity for the sheer volume of food I’m facing. The chicken is the sparest version of fried—thoroughly seasoned with a generous helping of spices but unburdened by heavy breading, just the skin itself providing the crispy bite. I make a stab at the softball-sized serving of baked mac ‘n cheese, but there will most definitely be leftovers. The sweet potatoes are prepared as smooth medallions swimming in sweet glaze, and the greens are tender but toothsome, in no way overcooked and gently savory, particularly with a few drops of Jermaine’s house-made hot sauce.
The fact that this bounty rang up at just $15 was not lost on me, especially since any other day I would’ve stretched the platter into two full meals. For those privy to the charms of true Southern cooking or who would like to see what all the fuss is about, make a visit. You’ll want to be Aunt Mary’s favorite niece or nephew.
Aunt Mary’s Soul Food & Crab House
955 N. DuPont Blvd, Milford • 422-7685