Miss Mona — as she is lovingly referred to by both her staff and customers — has been a fixture in Five Points dining since long before you could find a decent meal on nearly every corner of the changing neighborhood. Beginning with the to-go only Wings and Things in 1984 and reopening as the full-service Welton Street Cafe a few blocks away in ’99, Mona’s home-cooking and community space have provided a vital source of comfort for residents, regulars and anyone seeking real Southern and Carribean cuisine. While neighboring Rosenberg’s has been enjoying a great deal of attention, customers would be doing themselves a favor to walk a few storefronts down.
The spot can get busy during lunch and dinner and there appears to be a constant stream of people coming in for take-out. The staff is still attentive and the food is still prepared with great attention to detail. Unlike many of the newer restaurants with their uncompromising pace, the Welton Street kitchen staff takes the time to prepare food with the love and attention necessary to deliver real home-cooking. The quality shows and is worth the patience.
Much of the staff has been working in the shop since Mona relocated in ’99. The intimacy shows. Employees speak about Mona with reverence and fondness — her influence both as a cook and a community member is palpable.
In addition to being cooked with obvious love, the food provides a lot of bang for the buck. The chicken sandwich ($6.75) is fried and loaded with all the traditional fixins. The perfectly crisped and crunchy breading is best enjoyed with the hot sauce that appears on the table at the beginning of each meal. The “pates” — savory island style fried pastries — serve as a lovely reminder of the continuum that connects Carribean cuisine to Southern soul food and American cooking in general. The beef, broccoli and cheese pate ($5.15) is an absurd amount of food for the price. The thick dough is filling enough — after you add densely-spiced ground beef, chopped broccoli and American cheese you’d be hard pressed to find a more substantial meal for under 10 dollars anywhere in town.
The plate options include all the expected components of Southern cooking. Fried catfish and whiting, fried chicken, wings, pork chops and jerked meats are all available. The jerk chicken plate ($16) is a proper portion of heavily-seasoned bird joined by two sides and a choice of either dinner roll or cornbread. Fries, hush puppies, onion rings, potato salad and fried okra are all there — but it’s the red beans and rice that truly can’t be missed.
As the dynamics of the neighborhood continue to shift it’s important not to forget those that laid the foundation. Fortunately for diners, the path was well-paved in Mona’s soul food.
Welton Street Cafe is located at 2736 Welton St., Denver. It is open Tuesday and Wednesday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Thursday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.