Mana From Heaven

$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

Don't be dismayed; the name has no typo. Co-owner Hallue Wright explains. "Someone else already had the correct spelling" for manna, she says, recalling the time she and her family realized that another business had the name they wanted for their Prince George's County carryout. "So I said, 'That's okay, we can drop an 'n.' We're second-best, anyway. God is first."

Wright, an associate pastor at Victory Church International in Fort Washington, has been running Mana From Heaven with her husband, Robert Sr., and two sons, Richard and Robert Jr., since January 2007. (The business is not related to the church.) Most days, Wright doles out samples of terrific smoked turkey salad ($6, in a sandwich) to waiting customers. Always, she wishes you well as she packs up your meal, carefully separating cold items from hot. Her graciousness radiates.

My District-dwelling dining mates and I felt a twinge of envy for Mana's local clientele as we marveled at the meatiness of Richard's smoky pork ribs. We vowed to go back for a half-slab of them ($14.55) soon. Really soon. Of course, two pieces of juicy, fried-to-order chicken ($7) also would be reason enough to return. Both items come as a dinner with a choice of two sides (including house-made potato salad, collard greens, coleslaw and terrific sweet potatoes) and either white or whole-wheat sandwich bread or corn bread, the latter of which my friend aptly deemed "very corn-forward." Nearly every side dish on Mana's menu is made from scratch; pig and poultry are smoked in-house.

The Wrights offer a handful of sandwiches, including steak and cheese ($6.50) and a nice fried whiting ($5 for a small). Our favorite, though, was the mouthwatering pulled pork ($5.50), substantial shreds of vinegary meat loaded on a soft roll. Add a dollop of barbecue sauce and coleslaw, and prepare for a bite that hovers close to perfection.

Hallue (pronounced HAL-you) advises calling ahead to place your order. When you do, ask whether she has made her banana pudding ($2) that day. If the answer is yes, get some; the same goes for those sweet potatoes ($1.40 for a small), which are delightfully lumpy and delicately seasoned with hints of cinnamon and clove.

Or so I have guessed.

"What is in those?" I wondered aloud while I was at Mana recently, hoping for the secret to those chunky spuds. "Oh, just a little bit of our own twist," Hallue said, smiling.

The Wrights are guarded about their recipes; so be it. Any such mysteries can be summed up this way: Their inspiration is divine.

-- Catherine Barker (Good to Go, Dec. 23, 2009)