There’s No Taste Like Home
Don Simmons’ soul food is nationally recognizedBy Bridgette A. Lacy
On workdays, Don Simmons starts at 6 a.m. ordering supplies, scheduling work shifts, and writing the daily menu on the chalkboard at Magnolia 23, his Southern cuisine restaurant in downtown Asheboro.
Throughout the day, he may wash dishes, cook the delicious pan-fried chicken, take orders and greet every customer that comes through the door of the cozy space that reminds you of your grandmother’s dining room with mirrors and pictures on the wall.
Everybody ranging from blue-collar workers, families, business people, and tourists eat there.
“His food is wonderful,” says Asheboro Mayor David Smith. “His fried chicken has been recognized nationally.” Magnolia 23 was voted #63 on a list of “America’s 75 Best Fried Chicken Spots” by the Daily Meal, a website dedicated to food news.
“It’s good home cooking,” David says. “If you don’t get there early, the daily specials are gone.”
Magnolia 23 opened in 2009, the same year Don retired from his position as a supervisor for Energizer Battery Inc. in Asheboro.
“The economy was rock bottom,” Don says. “But as soon as we opened, we did pretty good.”
Word of the made-from-scratch soul food and the great hospitality kept customers coming through the door. His wife, Doris, makes the melt-in-your-mouth cornbread and often runs the cash register.
He’s already passed the ownership of the business to his daughters, Brittany Simmons, a physician assistant in Greensboro, and Crystal Simmons, an associate professor of social studies education at SUNY at Geneseo.
“We have so many loyal customers that come in weekly,” Crystal says. “You feel right at home. My father goes around to each table and sparks a conversation with everyone. You are there not just to have a good meal but to make friends [and] to build community, as well.”
“The atmosphere feels like you are home,” Brittany explains. “Sunday dinner is an important part of our culture. Enjoying the southern flavors and family-inspired recipes are a part of the experience.”
Don is well known beyond his restaurant and volunteers on his days off. Several years ago, he took it upon himself to spearhead cleaning up Odd Fellows Cemetery, an African American cemetery. He was helped by juvenile offenders. “We did it from the heart,” Don says.
His latest service project is organizing the Crowder Baseball Camp named for the late Chester Crowder of Asheboro. This April, Wake Forest University is sending coaches to help any child who wants to attend the free Crowder camp. “We want every kid to have a chance to play,” Don says.
The 69-year-old definitely likes to stay busy. “He’s always loved to cook,” Brittany says. “He’s always been the type who likes to work. Retiring and sitting at home was never his plan. My father is very passionate about the restaurant and my mother is very supportive. They are the key to the success. They are the heart and soul of the business.”
About Magnolia 23
Claim to fame
Home cookin’. Magnolia 23 was voted #63 on a list of “America’s 75 Best Fried Chicken Spots” by the Daily Meal, a website dedicated to food news.
Most popular dishes
Grilled pork chops, country-style steak, fried catfish, mac and cheese, collards, and candied yams; desserts include fried apple pie and Hershey bar cake: a chocolate cake with white icing and pieces of Hershey’s candy sprinkles on it.
Visit Magnolia 23
23 S Fayetteville St, Asheboro, NC 27203
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