My Mama's Kitchen

My Mama's Kitchen in Norfolk

Anne Leonard

"When we make them, you might have second thoughts," the guy at the register said. My husband, Cody, was, of course, determined to prove him wrong.

Norfolk’s My Mama’s Kitchen is known for wrapping their neighborhood in a sweeping aroma of comfort. I was hankering for one of their pulled pork sandwiches smothered in BBQ sauce and a side of Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie. Cody, on the other hand, went straight to the wings section where he pinpointed their hottest: Ghost Wings.

“I just wanna let you know that you can’t return these,” the guy said. He went on to explain that customers had ordered these in the past and tried to return them because they couldn’t bear the heat. Warned, Cody ordered 12.

Through the open kitchen behind the registers, we could see the chef busy, carefully tending to each order. They pride themselves in not being a fast food restaurant, just as in any mama’s kitchen, real food requires time and, most importantly, love. 

While I feasted on the smells of BBQ and the sounds of R&B, the guy who warned Cody briefly stepped out of sight. The ghost chili fumes permeated the air; I tried to remain strong and hold back from gagging. Eventually every customer, the cook included, joined in a dry coughing fit, eyeing Cody for his pungent choice. We’d wished we stepped out, too.

cody wings

The guy handed us our to-go bag and wished Cody luck. We sat at the red picnic tables ready to dig in, but the husband could sense he’d need more than a glass of milk. Perhaps the risk of the chef seeing him in tears also played a role in his decision, so we headed home. I peeled back the foil on my sandwich, unfolding a bun trying to contain a generous helping of steaming hot, juicy pulled pork. Trying to endure the 15 minute car ride, my self-control budged, and I scarfed it all down in the passenger seat. The BBQ was tender, finger lickin’ good, so much so that I suddenly became territorial over my sandwich, selfish about any bites he wanted. The sauce was peppery, sweet and tangy all rolled into one. It’s safe to say breathing was nonexistent between each bite.


“It’s pretty hot, but I can handle it,” he said after one wing. He began to sweat between his eyes. Appearing painful, he nodded, reassuring himself that this was a good decision even though his reddish eyes told me otherwise. Milk sips, grunts and squinting escalated. With five naked wings to show for and a cup and a half of milk down, he managed to eat one more before putting the other half in the fridge for another brave day.

ghost wings

I thought spicy food and I were friends. I took one bite, and the heat steadily hit. The flavor was sweet for about a half of a second before erupting into an uncontainable fireball. Immediately I grabbed the milk, then proceeded to nurse the heat with a couple trays of ice cubes. With the milk and ice cubes gone, I remembered Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie, armed with a rich, special sweetness to extinguish the heat.


Whether you’re in the mood for wings, barbecue, or pie, My Mama’s Kitchen is equipped to leave you full of the home cooked tastes of your yesteryears.

Visit My Mama’s Kitchen’s Facebook Page for their menu, hours and latest specials. 

mama's kitchen

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