So when is a restaurant not just a restaurant? When the folk are as welcoming and the various foods as generously portioned and deliciously home-cooked as they are at Lilly's Soul Food in Windsor.
Lilly's is owned by Andre Lilly, 51, and his wife, Kimberly, 52. Andre's father was from Trelawny, Jamaica, and his mother, though raised in Hartford, had Southern parents. Thus, the fare might best be described as soul food with Caribbean flair.
When we visited Lilly's, I might have been a little nonplussed that the last order of curried chicken ($12.95) disappeared while we took too long acclimating to new surroundings. But we were tantalized by the smothered pork chops ($12.95) and ever so happy with the fried chicken ($11.95), baked chicken ($11.95) and barbecue ribs ($12.95) we actually wound up with.
Whether or not you take it away, as most folk do, the food is served in big Styrofoam clamshells. For those who stay, as we did, there is camaraderie at the four nice tables in the restaurant, and more tables potentially available at the adjacent Lilly Pad Dairy Bar (the couple purchased the former Faddy's Donuts & Ice Cream business as a graduation gift for their children, Kyle, Kayla and Krystin).
Soul food restaurants tend to err toward generosity, and Lilly's doesn't disappoint. Both of our chicken orders had four pieces, including at least two breasts in each. In the main compartment, the ribs were piled so high I don't think the clamshell could have been closed. Heaping portions of sides were put in the two smaller compartments. If ordered carryout, our slabs of cornbread would have had to be bagged separately. Our macaroni and cheese, corn, rice and peas, yams, blacked eyed peas and lima beans were stacked high above the partitions. All we were able to do is eat enough of our main proteins and sides so the clamshells could be closed and taken home.
The fried chicken and macaroni and cheese are Lilly's best sellers, but the ribs are special. Andre smokes ribs part way with his own special rub, then steams them, preserving flavor and tenderness.
Desserts like layered cake ($3.75), square cake ($3.75), yummy cake ($3.75), cherry cheesecake ($4.75), Key lime pie ($4.75), banana pudding ($4.75) and fresh fruit ($4.75) looked big enough to feed at least two people. We took our sweet potato pie ($3.95) and peach cobbler ($4.75) home so we could try the ice cream next door, loving our Guinness- and strawberry cheesecake-flavored samples.
LILLY'S SOUL FOOD RESTAURANT, 305 Windsor Ave., Windsor, is open Wednesday through Friday 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 860-241-8132.
THE LILLY PAD DAIRY BAR, 309 Windsor Ave., Windsor, is open in summer Tuesday through Wednesday 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 12 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Sunday 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.; 860-241-8132; thelillypaddairybar.com