Holy Hell Kitchen, Lusby, Maryland

What great place! Our friend, Eric Zabiegalski, sent us an announcement of the soft opening of the Holy Hell Kitchen just as we were leaving one Sunday. It was a couple of weeks before we could try it, but once we did, we all loved the food.

At the time, the Holy Hell Kitchen was only serving carry out. That’s a shame, because it promises to be a good space for dining. The walls are decorated with colorful portraits that make it cheery but relaxed.

Everything is pushed back under COVID restrictions, but the place is spotless and welcoming, and the staff could hardly be friendlier. I look forward to dining inside.

The Holy Hell Kitchen at the angle of the shopping center that most local people identify as the Weis Market shopping center to distinguish it from the Giant shopping center. We call it the Dunkin’ Donuts or the Baskin Robbins shopping center, depending on the time of day.

I went with general instructions about what to order. Michael, the East Coast Burger Expert, wanted the WTF, a burger with pimiento cheese, bacon jam, pickled onion, iceberg lettuce, and Duke’s on a salt/pepper bun.

I ordered it medium rare. It’s a good-sized burger with the ample meat pressed fairly thin (as a griddle burger should be), thin enough to fill the large bun. Still, there it was, with both a nice crust and actually cooked to medium rare.

How many times do you see that — a burger less than an inch thick delivered both with a crust and cooked medium rare? Michael was very impressed, both by the feat and by the quality of the burger.

Liza opted for the By and By, two pieces of fried chicken with corn muffins.

The chicken was well seasoned, nice and peppery, and cooked just right. Liza enjoyed it, but had some competition. Lily, who is almost two, is at the stage when the most attractive food is what someone else is trying to eat. Lily made a beeline to Liza’s lap and helped herself. Now, Lily is no stranger to fried chicken. She’s tested child’s plates across the country, and is no pushover. After her first bite, Lily smiled and exclaimed, “I like it!”, an encomium I had only heard her use once before, after I gave Lily her first two M&Ms. Lily also helped a lot deconstructing and consuming the corn muffins.

For my dinner, I chose the Gospel Chick Classic Chicken sandwich, a fried chicken thigh on a bun and kosher dill pickles — and some unanticipated but always welcome bacon. Apparently, I forgot to photograph my sandwich. Picture a large piece of chicken on a bun. Like Liza’s chicken, my sandwich was very well seasoned, and the choice of a thigh rather than the standard breast showed a deep understanding of flavor. This was the best chicken sandwich I’ve had since … the Blue and White? Maybe better.

(Nancy, still overwhelmed by her lunch at Mecho’s, took a pass on dinner, and just pecked birdlike here and there.)

Each of the meals came with a side. We were a little late in ordering, so the choice of sides was limited. As you have probably discerned from the pictures, I exercised my executive discretion and picked collards and macaroni and cheese — two orders of each. The collards are from North Carolina collards — I don’t think they’re Ayden collards, but I may be wrong. The collards were cooked with just the right amount of habanero peppers, Vidalia onion, green pepper, and smoked turkey. Now, I am fussy about greens, and have decided ideas about greens and their pot likker. My ideas include side meat rather than smoked turkey. Still, I loved — loved — the collard greens, as did everyone else. My only complaint was that everyone else liked them, so I had to share.

The macaroni and cheese was a treasure. It was real baked macaroni and cheese, the kind that’s so hard to find now, and is so much better than mere pasta mixed with a cheese sauce. Holy Hell Kitchen mades theirs with 5 cheese varieties, jalapeños (yes!), and caramelized shallots. It had a wonderful crust, a great consistency and flavor, and the nice kick from the jalapeño that allowed us to keep Lily and Ella from eating it all.  

All of the food was excellent and plentiful. But that’s only part of the attraction of the Holy Hell Kitchen. It’s a whole-family operation. Hudson takes the orders. I won’t guess at how old Hudson is, but he demonstrated poise and professionalism far beyond his years. Hudson’s older sister, Hannah, was working there, and their parents and, I’m guessing, brother Ahmod Xavier and an uncle or cousin or two. They are all lovely people, and it’s a charming environment.

And I was stunned — and touched, really — to find a handwritten “thank you” note with our order.

What lovely people. The note deserved a much better photo but, as I say, I was stunned and touched.

The Holy Hell owner-chef, Eric Lee Ricks, came up in Metter, Georgia. I think he said Metter. There were some other Georgia people there and I had on some Alabama gear, so there was some banter going on. Ricks went to college up in Macon and got a BA and an MA in religious choral music. Even better, he met Crystal, later Dr. Crystal M. Ricks, and started a ministry and a beautiful family. They’re now taking the big step from their Gospel Chick food truck to the brick and mortar Kitchen. You can — and should — read their philosophy here. I don’t want to get outside my expertise, but I think that anyone who can cook food like that must stand well with the Lord.

I plan to return soon, and advise you to head on over to Holy Hell Kitchen. Have a great meal and a lovely evening.

***

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