As a lifelong foodie, there are few things that I value over a great meal, but human rights is easily one of them. 

History is unfolding around us every day lately and it is so important that we step up and participate in the right ways. Lately, I’ve been donating a lot of my time to the Black Lives Matter movement. If you find yourself having difficulty finding the time to go out and protest, there are still many other ways in which you can help out, from dropping off supplies for protesters, to signing petitions, to spreading awareness, to simply supporting and uplifting BIPOC folks around you. 

So for the rest of the year, I will be using CT Eats to review only Black-owned businesses. Thankfully, there are so many phenomenal ones right here in Rochester, so finding places to try out has been a slice of pie so far — a slice of Gladys’ pie from the locally-famous Sweet Potato Pie Place, to be specific. 

Formerly “Gladys’ Place,” named after the founder, Gladys Burke, The Sweet Potato Pie Place has been serving up slices of sweet potato heaven (and more!) from Jefferson Ave. for years now. I think this year we’ve all been desperately in need of a hearty helping of some real, heartwarming soul food, and The Sweet Potato Pie Place’s menu offers so many irresistible classics that it was really difficult to narrow it down to just a few final picks to try out. But to start, I’ll tell you about the ribs sandwich.

The bread was absolutely soaked in barbecue sauce — plus the meat was still on the bones — so, it was quite literally impossible to pick this up and eat it like an actual sandwich, but I really didn’t mind ditching the bread at all, because that lovely meat was definitely the main attraction. The ribs were gorgeously moist and tender, and just fell off the bones and melted in your mouth. And the plentiful barbecue sauce was so decadent and sweet; a bit of acidity and/or heat would have helped to cut the overall fatty richness a bit, but if you’re in the market for ribs that’ll stick to your ribs, these’ll certainly do the trick for you. 

Our next entree, the smothered chicken, was another helping of Southern hospitality. I will say that ordering this for delivery definitely seemed to decrease the quality since the fried chicken had gotten a bit soggy from sitting in the gravy by the time it arrived, but the parts of the chicken that weren’t directly underneath the gravy were nicely fried and crisp, so I can imagine that it holds up more if you go there and grab it in person. 

The meat of the chicken, once again, was beautifully moist and prepared just right. Although the gravy was sweet and salty, it was pretty mild in flavor. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just more of a matter of personal preference, since I tend to want a bit more bold flavor. 

Though the ribs were quite good, the collard greens and mac & cheese were the highlight of dinner

Still, I enjoyed our two sides: the mac & cheese and collard greens, two more Southern soul staples. The greens were perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, and exactly what I wanted from them. But, oh my goodness, that macaroni and cheese! It was so delightful, so peachy keen. It was super cheesy, thick, and creamy with chunks of rich, sharp cheese. The meats were good, but these sides were amazing!

And now, moving on to the star of my meal.

The Sweet Potato Pie Place’s sweet potato pie makes all your 2020 troubles melt away. First off, it smells absolutely irresistible. The aroma of sweet potato and warm spices is hypnotic. It was still hot when it came, which makes sense considering that they baked it up fresh to order — another great touch. The crust was perfectly crispy and thin — no soggy bottoms in sight — and very well seasoned, with an overall flavor of butter and fall spices. The filling was rich, creamy, hearty, and just pure decadence. Everything was sweet, but not too sweet, sweet in a natural and non-sugary kind of way, which is just the perfect kind. And that buttery sweet potato sweetness perfectly balanced with those warm spices makes for some soul food that spoke to my soul, which, I suppose, is how you know they really got it right.

Overall, I’d say the vibe of The Sweet Potato Pie Place is just pure Southern hospitality. The food may not be an upscale dining experience with the most bold flavors, but it truly warms your soul, which is exactly what I wanted from it. It’s that kind of homey food that you feel like someone would cook with a generous pinch of love right in your very own kitchen. So for a heaping helping of cozy comfort food and just about the best sweet potato pie you could hope to enjoy, be sure to support this local gem.

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