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Review Archive/March 2013

Updated February 28, 2013

United House of Prayer Cafeteria; Salisbury, NC
Belt Loosening Good!

United House of Prayer Pic!By Jay Whipple/Trend Magazine Online™

I have dined at this not-so-well-known eatery many times while in the Queen City a.k.a. Charlotte, NC. I say it is not-so-well-known because 1. It is inside a church, and 2. They simply do not advertise outside of signage placed outside their locations, and word of mouth.  The United House of Prayer for All People is a reported Pentecostal Holiness church founded in 1919 as the Rock of the Apostolic Faith in West Wareham, MA, by Bishop Charles Emmanuel Grace b.k.a. Sweet Daddy Grace.  He did not hit the big time until the 1920’s and after opening his church in an area known as Brooklyn -- which was part of Downtown Charlotte -- until it was razed in the late 1960’s to early 1970’s during a period known by some as Urban Removal.

Bishop Grace hails from Cape Verde Islands just off the west coast of the continent of Africa and Senegal. He was well known for his charisma and his ability to motivate his many followers to assist him in building what today is the largest Black church congregation in the United States with reportedly over 3.5 million members today.  His church is recorded as having the largest baptisms in modern times where fire hoses are employed to accommodate the masses of participants. Bishop Grace was either the first or one of the first to conduct huge parades through what today is known as Old Brooklyn in Charlotte, NC, on the 3rd Sunday each September. The church owns and operates its own fleet of motor coaches and even has its very own marching band which rivals many well-known college/university bands throughout the U.S.

Like this one, many of their churches operate restaurants during the week and on Saturdays that are open to the public. As stated earlier, I have dined at three of their Charlotte eateries and the food and service is consistently good at two of those branches.  In fact, in my opinion, it was their Mother House location off Beatties Ford Road near Interstate 85 north that caused the new McDonald’s Cafeteria to shut down less than two years after its grand opening in the late 1990’s and a few years after the death of the former very popular cafeteria’s founder John McDonald in 1995.

I arrived at the Salisbury, North Carolina location off Martin Luther King, Jr., drive at approximately 11:50 A.M. and just in time to beat the regular lunch crowd. I was sort of confused as to where to enter the sanctuary to get to the cafeteria, fortunately there was a couple heading that way just before me and I just followed the crowd -- to coin a phrase. The dining area was small but quaint and featured basic cafeteria-style chairs and covered tables. The staff members were upbeat, pleasant, and displayed the typical southern hospitality that is expected below the Mason-Dixon Line.  Once oriented to the starting point, I just had to order their fish because it was Friday and it’s supposed to bring you good fortunes.  I ordered the large Croaker (with bones) fish plate with yams and mustard greens on the side, sweet iced tea, and I could not resist the peach cobbler that was on display at a side table.  Believe it or not, I was given a choice of how I wanted my fish fried; hard, medium, or soft, and whether I wanted it cooked with salt and/or pepper.  You know that you are dealing with fish-frying veterans when they break it down that way.

Sweet Daddy Grace History PicI was told to go ahead and grab a seat because my fish was being made to order and it was going to take a few extra minutes. That gave me enough time to be nosy and check out the men’s restroom which was relatively clean and I noticed that the cafeteria’s sanitation code was 100.5 which really let me know that I was in for a memorable treat. I also got a chance to check out a corner table dedicated to the history of Bishop Grace complete with photographs of the founding icon. Next to that display table was a fancy dining table that was set up and reserved for church dignitaries I guest just in case they decided to stop through for lunch. My table was next to it and just below a large photo of Black Jesus which makes sense considering what the Bible tells us about his true appearance. On the opposite wall were large photos of Sweet Daddy Grace.

Right about this time, approximately seven minutes or so after ordering, the Croaker Plate Full Pic nice older lady at the cash register delivered my meal piping hot and ready to be consumed. I received two heaping portions of Croker along with my side items, tea, and peach cobbler. I was elated that it was just me at that table so I had ample room to spread out and enjoy each dish. The cook made it a point to pass by and inquire as to what I thought about the fish. I gave him the old thumbs up and he proudly strutted out of sight. I can tell that most of the other folks dinning were regulars because they were called by their first names. My total came to $9.50 with desert and I also received a souvenir menu as my receipt. I know it says $7.50 because $2.00 went to the lady that provided the peach cobbler.

Croaker Plate Empty PicRight about here in my reviews I typically provide a line item review of each dish but in this case I have decided to provide you with a picture which is as the saying goes, “Worth a thousand words!” Needless to say I had to loosen my belt slightly to comfort myself for the rest of the day. In conclusion, if you are ever in the neighborhood or passing through the historic town of Salisbury, NC, take exit 76 and head west, make a left as if you were going to Wal-Mart, but keep heading south, make a right at the dead end, and the church is on your left at Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. You may just see me there under the Black Jesus throwing down on some good ole’ fashioned home-cooked soul food. UHOP Menu PIC

The United House of Prayer is located at 501 Old Concord Road, Salisbury, NC, and their phone number is 704-637-1528.

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