Despite location change, Cora Faye’s keeps serving soul food done right

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AURORA | Since she moved to Aurora from Denver, Priscilla Smith has seen some relieved and hungry customers stroll through the doors of her soul food restaurant, Cora Faye’s Café.

“They come here clutching their hearts, ‘Oh, you’re still open,’” she said with a laugh.

Last summer, Smith moved her decade-old restaurant — a staple on the region’s soul food scene — to 16251 E. Colfax Ave. from its old home on Colorado Boulevard in Denver.

Rents were climbing at the old spot, Smith said, and the new one offers her a lot more room to work with — about 3,800 square feet compared to 900 square feet.

Plus — and for Smith this was a key factor — the new Aurora location offers ample parking, something in short supply at her Denver digs.

“I was looking for some place with, No. 1, parking,” she said.

Her sprawling new home on the second floor of a shopping center near Colfax and Laredo Street also means a bigger kitchen, where Smith and her staff can move with a lot more ease than they could in her “little kitchen that could” in Denver, where as many eight people tried to navigate a space built for one.

But while there are changes — more space and better parking — Smith said her customers need not fret over her tweaking her menu.

“Why fix something that isn’t broke?” she said.

That means her award-winning southern-fried chicken is still there, and still fried to golden perfection. And the whole fried catfish entrée made the move from Denver, too, as did her soul food egg rolls and iconic red Kool-Aid.

So far, she said the new Aurora clientele have flocked to her ox tails and, interestingly, the liver and onions.

“A lot of people don’t like to cook it, but they like to eat it,” she said.

Smith said she might add some items to the menu, though. She is considering adding steaks, as well as chicken and dumplings. She might try to launch a Sunday brunch, too, complete with cheesy grits, biscuits and gravy and her popular red waffles.

Adrian Miller, an Aurora native and the author of “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine,” said Cora Faye’s has long been one of his favorites among the region’s soul food restaurants. The restaurant is one of the few places that offers the whole, bone-in, fried catfish, he said, while most places have catfish fillets or nuggets.

And it’s not just the entrées, he added. The coconut cream cake is among the best desserts around, according to Miller.

“That’s next level,” he said.

Smith said that while some other soul food restaurants are moving toward healthier fare, she doesn’t plan on making that shift. While she opts not to use lard in her fried food, she said people still come there expecting a certain style of cuisine — one she’s happy to provide.

“They want to taste some grease,” she said with a chuckle. “They want that fried chicken to taste like fried chicken.”