Occupation: Deputy Sheriff
Favorite Restaurant: Souls Restaurant
Reviewed Souls Restaurant: Thursday, February 18, 2010
Soul’s Restaurant is a family-style soul food restaurant located in East Oakland. The Acts Full Gospel Church Community Development Department started Soul’s to provide the community of East Oakland with not only a nice place to eat, but also an avenue for community job training and placement. The managers, cooks, and many of the wait staff are members of the church and, as part of the community job training program, men and women from "Men of Valor" and the "House of Ruth" programs are hired and trained to work as wait staff.
Even though the restaurant is located in East Oakland, which admittedly can be a little rough, I like Soul’s for its home cooking. I go there when I want comfort food without having to cook it myself. The people are friendly the atmosphere is inviting, and I don’t have to get dressed up. Free parking is available and adjacent to the restaurant with on-site security. Also, there are no stairs, so folks who are challenged when walking can have easy access to the restaurant.
On my recent visit, my family and I arrived on a Thursday at 5:45 pm. Upon entering the restaurant, there is an openness and spaciousness about the building. It is brightly painted. There was a hostess seating people, which was very quick. Along the walls are photos and posters of famous African Americans, so we spent some time quizzing each other about them.
The menu is varied with many great choices to choose from. There is always a daily special offered, and breakfast is served all day. According to manager Ms. Doris Limbrick, the food is prepared fresh every day. It is very healthy without a lot of salt or fats, which the public seems to associate with "soul food."
There were 7-8 tables in use when we arrived at 5:45 pm. We ordered at about 5:50 pm and were served by 6:10 pm, which was great since we were very hungry. Entrees come with a choice of three side dishes. Side dish choices include: collard greens, red beans and rice, rice and gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, coleslaw, potato salad, and french fries.
We ordered the following meals:
1) Oxtails in gravy with yams, greens, red beans and rice, and a cornbread muffin
There were five oxtails, which were very tender and well seasoned with the meat just about falling off the bone. The oxtails were served in nice brown gravy. The yams were sweet without being sickly sweet, and tender without being mushy. The greens were tender and well seasoned, but could have been hotter, and the red beans and rice could use a touch more seasoning and more juice. The pink lemonade was cool, refreshing, and just the right balance of sweet and tart
2) Fried catfish with mashed potatoes and gravy, french fries, and coleslaw
This dish was quite tasty. The catfish -- two large filets and one medium filet -- were fried lightly in cornmeal. They were crispy on the outside and flaky inside. There was not any excessive oil on the plate nor was there a greasy taste. We really enjoyed the gravy on the mashed potatoes, as it was well seasoned with just the right consistency. The french fries were hot and crispy and cut in a shoestring shape. The coleslaw was nicely seasoned and didn't have too much mayonnaise.
3) Liver and grilled onions
The liver -- two large slices -- was quite tender, not overly dry, and served with plenty of deliciously grilled onions. The liver was grilled and not fried. This meal was ordered with greens, mashed potatoes with gravy, and red beans and rice.
4) Fried chicken, french fries, and macaroni and cheese
This was a child’s meal. It came with two drumsticks, two side dishes, and a drink, all for $7.00. The chicken was lightly fried, didn't have a lot of batter, and was very crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. This meal was ordered from the child’s menu, so it also included a drink (milk, juice, or soda). The macaroni and cheese was excellent. Just the right amount of cheese and not dried out.
For dessert we ordered the banana pudding and red velvet cake. The banana pudding was delicious! Just the right blend of sweetness, and it contained plenty of vanilla wafers. The red velvet cake was a disappointment -- we found it to be dry and heavy. There was also not very much frosting on our piece of cake.
I have also had breakfast at Soul’s. They serve the standard breakfast, but grits are also on the menu, which is very nice. I don’t always want potatoes. No alcohol is served at the restaurant.
Occupation: Antique Dealer
Favorite Restaurant: Memo's Mexican Cuisine House of Pipian
Reviewed Souls Restaurant: Friday, February 12, 2010
Soul's Restaurant, located deep in the heart of East Oakland, was an interesting experience for us. We got a little lost on the way in and wandered through some pretty tough neighborhoods until we landed at Soul's. A bright, inviting spot compared to some in the area, it had well-lit parking with security, and we felt welcome as soon as we arrived.
Although it was only 30% full, everyone seemed to be in a good mood and enjoying themselves. We arrived at 8:00, so we missed the nightly special of smothered oxtail and mashed potatoes. I guess their dinner crowd hits a little earlier. Our waitress was very friendly and the staff checked in on us often. We were never lacking refills on drinks.
I had the rib-eye steak and fried shrimp combo with sides of coleslaw, red beans and rice and collard greens. The rib-eye was a good cut, cooked medium rare as I asked, but was over seasoned with seasoning salt. (Perhaps typical for soul-food, but as I was not expecting it, it was a bit much.) The greens were perfect, just enough vinegar. The coleslaw was good because it was not too sweet, and the red beans and rice were just fine. Dinner was served with moist, yet crunchy, and delicious cornbread muffins. My wife had an excellent fried chicken.
We did not have to wait too long for our entrees. The portions were generous, but I was very hungry and I cleaned up, or as Mom used to say, I was a "clean-plate clubber." We could see why Soul's Restaurant is a standard in the area for quality soul food with a home-cooking feel and a very friendly staff. Seems they were doing as much take-out business as they had people eating in. We would go back for the fried chicken and the great, simple sides.
One drawback for me was the lack of beer or wine, as I enjoy that with a hearty meal. The décor was clean, open, and bright with large posters of famous Americans, like Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, and Barack Obama.
Location: Menlo Park
Favorite Restaurant: Flea Street Cafe
Reviewed Souls Restaurant: Saturday, February 13, 2010
It was a homecoming. While exiting the 580 freeway, I realized that Soul’s Restaurant was not just close to my old neighborhood, but for all intents and purposes, it was my old neighborhood! Feeling a bit surreal on the drive along Foothill Boulevard, it dawned on me that I hadn’t been in this area for thirty years. I don’t consider myself a soul food aficionado, but I have eaten a black-eyed pea or two in my day, and my standards are a bit high. However, I vowed to keep an open mind.
I invited friends from various backgrounds and culinary tastes for dinner that evening. We even had a few "virgins" that had never tried soul food. Upon our arrival to the restaurant, we were invited with warmth and enthusiasm. The place was big, bright, and airy. It became evident at once that the restaurant was connected to a church as I heard the occasional shout of "halleluiah" from the gospel music playing in the background.
The large menu had all the basics that you would expect for a soul food restaurant, namely, fried chicken, greens, fried catfish, etc. There were an overwhelming number of side dishes from which to choose. The food was good. However, soul food typically has strong flavors, and there were some dishes that I thought were a bit under seasoned. By far the best dishes were the fried catfish, yams, mac and cheese, and the banana pudding. Yum!
When you consider that we had a party of eight, the service was quite prompt. The food was a good entry point for those who were new to the cuisine. However, there was a glaring absence of more ambitious dishes, such as pigs’ feet, ham hocks, and chitterlings. The oxtails were only available on Fridays. The prices were excellent, and the portions large. I was a bit disappointed when I reached for my wine glass a few times only to find iced tea. I thought that a nice Sauvignon Blanc would have paired well with some of the fried dishes. But alas, alcohol is not served there.
With that said, the restaurant created a perfect backdrop for reconnecting with our friends. I would recommend Soul’s for a nice dinner experience with acquaintances, particularly if they are new to the cuisine. Above all, going to Soul's was a reconnection to myself. The food brought me back to my roots. We have a saying in our family, "You would crawl fifty miles to get to soul food so good that it would make you want to slap your mama." Well, I may not crawl fifty miles to eat there, but I would definitely crawl from the parking lot, and I would slap my mama’s hand if she tried to take my banana pudding.