UPDATE – Portis Kountry Kitchen has moved out of the basement and to a stand alone location at 213 South Chaparrel St.
When you first see the massive building with a dark facade at 615 North Upper Broadway Street in Downtown Corpus, it’s hard to imagine the history it’s seen. Built in 1941, it was originally a Driscoll Hotel but not like the one in Austin.
Over the years it’s been converted to office space and if you’re ever looking for a bite to eat in the sparkling city by the sea, just head on it, take an elevator down to the basement, turn a couple of corners and you’ll find Portis Kountry Kitchen. “Yeah. We call it the hidden gem,” joked owner Joseph Stith.
Stith served in the Air Force for 12 years but now he bunkers down with his wife Katina in this downtown, downstairs dinner that’s the place to go for soul food in south Texas. “We wanted to do a restaurant because food brings people together,” said Joseph.
“Not very many soul food restaurants in Corpus Christi. This is one of the best ones and it’s been around for a long time,” said customer Tina Butler.
“It is fresh, it is down to earth and it’s wholesome,” said another customer, Guy Nickleson.
After his years in the service, Joseph held down several jobs in the energy industry and that brought him to Texas but sent him all over the state. He wanted to drill down and stay home with his family so when the opportunity to take over this basement bistro popped up, he couldn’t pass it up. “Because I’ve spent so much time away from home working that every time we’re able to do something together, it’s pretty special,” said Joseph.
“Before we got married, I didn’t like him at all. We used to work together at the Navy Air Station,” said Joseph’s wife, Katina.
It’s safe to say that today Katina is smitten with her soul food soulmate. “I am so grateful that we did leap to go into this together. There was no other way that I would’ve wanted to do it than with my husband, partner, friend,” said Katina.
Here at PKK, you’ll find something different everyday but there are a few staples on the southern food menu. “Fried pork chop, collard greens, cornbread,” said Nickleson.
“Pork chops. Pork chops are good,” said customer Orion Blow.
“It’s all phenomenal, but I’m partial to pork chop,” agreed Joseph.
I’m starting to see a consensus for pork chops at this place!
“We have the works, so you won’t leave hungry,” said Katina.
Katina loaded me up plate full starting with their famous pork chop smothered in gravy, of course. Then we added their five-cheese mac and cheese, some green beans, and a slice of their sweet cornbread. Then Katina topped everything off with a piece of fried chicken, because what’s a meal without one, right?
Once my plate was built, I dove right into the mac and cheese! Let’s just say that’s the way you want to start things off. Absolutely fantastic! It’s cheesy, it’s gooey. It’s got a little sweetness to it. That is some unique mac and cheese.
“Mac and cheese is great. To be honest, not everybody can make mac and cheese. A lot of them claim they can until you put your fork in it, then something happens,” said customer Guy Nickleson. “It’s great. The food here is great. “
Then it was on to the pork chop! Fantastic. The pork chop is cooked perfectly. It’s tender, delicious, and the sauce is sensational. Talk about the perfect pork chop in Corpus Christi.
“You can’t pick the bone up when you got your gravy on it because you get gravy all over yourself. But some of them still do. They grab that bone and look around and get the last bite in,” said customer Guy Nickleson.
“There’s no shame in my game. I will sit here and let you watch me eat it. I was being nice today using a knife, but yes, I will use my fingers and as I have hot sauce on it,” said customer Tina Butler.
Well, if you’re looking for some down home country cooking in the middle of the coastal bend, just come downtown and find Portis Kountry Kitchen, PKK for short. It’s well worth the stop on The Texas Bucket List.
“It’s a part of Corpus Christi, part of African American history and it’s comfort food and it’s soul food and you need to come down and visit with the people that you see here from all walks of life,” said customer Tina Butler.
“Before people even come through this door, we are already praying. We want people to come through here and be able to just feel at peace because the world is just so hectic. So, we can bring people together, together with food. That’s what we mean about soul. Soul to us is about eating for your soul,” said Katina.