A big bowl of greens, with tomatoes, onions and garlic.
When it comes to soul food, one color stands out: green. That's the color of theleafy vegetables
-- collards and or mustards, usually -- that constitute a plate of greens.
Here are four places I've enjoyed greens in the South Sound (and the southern reaches of Seattle). Each version of the dish is slightly different. Two feature pork. One has beef. One has no meat at all. Unless noted, they're all available as side dishes.
Uncle Thurm's Finger-Licken Ribs and Chicken (3709 S G St., Tacoma; 253-475-1881)
Tangy and tender, with a sassy under-current of sweet rice vinegar and two kinds of sweet pork (ham hocks and smoked hog shanks), plus onions and garlic. Stick your fork in these greens and you come up with a forkful of greens.
Villa Victoria (3829 S. Edmunds St., Seattle; 206-329-1717)
There's no pork in these greens -- and they're still good. (They're the one in the picture above.) They're most al dente of the greens I surveyed -- chewable, but not tough. Tomatoes, onions, garlic standout in texture and flavor. Sold by the pound; take-out only.
Southern Kitchen (1716 6th Ave., Tacoma; 253-627-4282)
Sweet, comforting and slightly mysterious: Is that brown sugar or molasses that mellows out the collards' natural funk? No matter. Good greens, simmered tender, but not too soft. The meat's beef bacon, not pork.
Porter's Place (2615 E. N St., Tacoma253-472-6595)
No, those greens aren't soup -- they're just served with plenty of potlikker, greens' simmering liquid. Cooked beyond tender but not quite to mush, these greens include tons of sweet smoked barbecue pork. Onions and garlic thicken the flavors.