The most common way to experience the Deep South is to find a street magician and hope he pulls a shiny Louisiana state quarter from your ear. Survive when no illusionists are handy with today's Groupon: for $10, you get $20 worth of soul food at Dorsey's Locker in Oakland.
Drawing from a family tradition that began with the first Dorsey-owned restaurant in 1941, the menu at Dorsey's Locker comforts diners with steaming platefuls of Southern home cooking. Any day of the week, diners can choose from a swimmy selection of seafood, including deep-fried or grilled catfish fillets ($12.50) and prawns ($14.50). Culinary proctors can perform taste-bud tests on robust helpings of fried chicken ($13.50) or dishes of liver and onions ($11.50). Dorsey's also offers a rotating daily menu: Friday's menu, for example, doles out helpings of smothered steak ($11.25), chitterlings ($16), barbecue ribs and chicken or links ($14), and gumbo ($15). Most entrees are served next to your choice of neighboring sides, such as collard greens, yams, or mac 'n' cheese. If there's room in your buffet pants, keep bodies insulated with a warm order of peach cobbler ($4).
The comfortable, no-frills restaurant welcomes diners into a cozy space where the food speaks for itself and ends every sentence with "I reckon." As deep-fried savories inebriate your soul, feast your tongue's sights on a drink from the full-service bar, or wash down a soulful bite of the South with a glass of iced tea ($2.25) and a dose of hospitality.
In 1941, Wilma and Henry Dorsey opened a modest family eatery on the corner of 18th and Market in West Oakland. Over the next four decades, devoted family members transformed the place with a relocation, the addition of a cocktail lounge, and the construction of a beautiful wooden bar. Today, Dorsey family members remain the sole shareholders of a bustling restaurant that celebrates their Texas roots with country-style meals of fried chicken, catfish, gumbo, barbecue ribs, and sweet peach cobbler. A rotating weekly menu makes fresh additions to the slate of hearty, homecooked food with such dishes as chitterlings and smothered steak, while sides of collard greens, yams, and black-eyed peas garnish every dish with Southern panache.
Far more than a mere restaurant, Dorsey's Locker also treats guests to a full bar and lineup of live entertainment. On Sunday nights from 6 p.m until 10 p.m., the restaurant waives a cover charge for live R&B and jazz music. Open mic events each Tuesday show off the hidden talents of friends and neighbors, while Monday, Thursday, and Saturday-night karaoke provides a socially acceptable outlet for singing a love song to a plate of breaded pork chops.