Sample Soul Food Around the US at These Top 20 Restaurants

Updated: May 10, 2024

Food is culture; it's the way to connect with family, preserving the memories and traditions of elders. Whether you're cooking at home or sampling from our list of soul food eateries, you'll find the classics, plus the dishes focusing on current trends in soul food cuisine.

A spread of soul food from The Breakfast BoysVIA EATATBREAKFASTBOYS.COM

Everyone has their personal flavor profile of what makes soul food good. It may be the cook, the ingredients, the creativity of the dish or who gave the food a shout-out. I reached out to family, food pros and everyday food enthusiasts for suggestions on which spots should make the list for best soul food restaurants in the U.S. One thing is for sure, I’ll eat at each one as I travel around the country.

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Spread of soul food from Luellas Southern Kitchen

Luella’s Southern Kitchen

Chicago, Illinois

Opened in 2015, in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, Luella’s does it well. The restaurant pays homage to owner Chef Darnell Reed’s great-grandmother, Luella Funches.

Trained at Washburne Culinary & Hospitality Institute, Reed’s skill set brings flava’ and authenticity to his menu. So much so, that Luella’s has received the Bib Gourmand Michelin award.

My menu favorite is the shrimp and grits, and, of course, the biscuits!

2 / 20

MacArthur's Restaurant storefront

MacArthur’s Restaurant, Fine Southern Cuisine

Chicago, Illinois

MacArthur’s Restaurant in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood is cafeteria-style, with the option of dining in or taking out. Owner MacArthur “Mac” Alexander opened the family-run spot in 1997, creating a sit-down restaurant in the community which now brings in folks from neighborhoods everywhere.

Open seven days a week, the menu offerings change each day—on Monday you’ll find barbecue turkey legs and turkey links among other main dishes. Throughout the week, the menu showcases other soul food favorites like beef neck bones, fried and baked chicken and oxtails and vegetables.

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A plate of chicken and waffles from Pearls Place

Pearl’s Place

Chicago, Illinois

Pearl’s Place is located in the iconic Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. Opened in 1993, this is a white tablecloth, dine-in space. Located just 10 minutes south of downtown, it is known for its legendary service and “southern-style soul food buffet.” The salmon croquettes available for breakfast, lunch and dinner remind me of the ones my grandmother made.

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A bowl of shrimp and grits from The Soul Food Lounge

The Soul Food Lounge

Chicago, Illinois

Located in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, this new eatery brings an upscale vibe to an area with limited food options. Housed at the site of Dr. Martin Luther King’s residence when fighting for social justice in the city, The Soul Food Lounge is a collaboration between the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation and chef-owner Quentin Love.

Love’s goal is to blend traditional soul food favorites with an unexpected twist such as maple-glazed fried chicken with grilled pound cake!

5 / 20

Cornbread Restaurant And Bar storefront

Cornbread Restaurant & Bar

Detroit, Michigan

Originally named Beans and Cornbread, the dining spot is now in a new location with a new name: Cornbread Restaurant and Bar.

Known for dishing up classic soul food isn’t the only thing the restaurant is known for: It also introduced vintage shoebox packaging, linked to traveling during the era of segregation. The boxes, created by restaurant owner Patrick Coleman, depict Black History facts and are offered during Black History Month. The shoeboxes have become so popular, they’ve now been shipped to food spots in 38 states. One item that’s a must-try is the Harlem Burrito; the lunch menu option features red beans, rice and salsa giving a soulful twist to the Tex-Mex dish.

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A spread of soul food from Detroit Soul

Detroit Soul

Detroit, Michigan

This restaurant offers hearty servings of healthy food options. Detroit Soul is proud of the fact that they focus on local, farm-fresh ingredients, prepared with healthful cooking techniques. There are two locations, providing dine-in and carry-out service.

In choosing local fresh ingredients, owners Jerome Brown and Samuel Van Buren recognized the importance of the dishes their families enjoyed in both good and hard times. Their folks were nurtured through food, faith and fellowship. Carrying on those traditions is exactly what Detroit Soul is doing in the community. The menu includes the traditional soul food offerings, but my choice at DS is the turkey wing and collard greens.

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Florida Avenue Grill storefront
via @FloridaAvenueGrill/Facebook

Florida Avenue Grill

Washington, D.C.

This iconic spot is recognized as the oldest soul food restaurant in the world. Opened in 1944 by Lacey and Bertha Wilson, their goal was to create a comfortable eatery where folks of any color, religion or profession could enjoy a home-cooked meal. Florida Avenue Grill remained in the family until Lacey Jr. sold it to Imar Hutchins in 2005.

As the corner café nears its 80th anniversary, they continue to dish up old school classics such as collard green, cabbage, ham hocks, pig feet and chitterlings. These days, they’re also serving plant-based or turkey sausage along with vegetable plates. Their all-day breakfast options are quite popular too.

8 / 20

A plate of chicken and waffles from Black Nile Seafood And Soul Food

Black Nile Seafood and Soul Food

Brooklyn, New York

This dining spot is owned by the husband-and-wife duo Hasson and Fanerra Dupree. With roots in Brooklyn and the Bronx, they’ve created a dining oasis in the Crown Heights neighborhood. Self-described as a “river that feeds the soul,” the seafood and soul food menu offers only Halal meats and seafood and does not offer any pork by-products.

The Black Nile serves lunch and dinner. It is easy to see how Chef Fanerra landed on the Food Network’s Chopped just from taking one look at the menu. Diners love everything, from crab-smothered fried chicken to fried whiting and grits.

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Harlem restaurateur Melba Wilson, chef and owner poses for a photo outside of Melba’s restaurant
Rob Kim/Getty Images

Melba’s Restaurant

Harlem, New York

Melba’s Restaurant, opened in 2005, is a top spot for comforting soul food in New York. Owner Melba Wilson honed her restaurant chops working at Harlem’s iconic Sylvia’s (owned by her aunt), and other dining spots in the city. Wilson recognized the value in the community, taking a visible spot on the corner of 114th Street, before the more recent revitalization. “I am one of few entrepreneurs who is born-and-raised in this community and invested in Harlem way before many saw the value,” Wilson says.

The menu offers something for everyone, including: simple sandwiches, full dinners and plant-based options. My favorite is Melba’s Signature Fried Chicken and Eggnog Waffles.

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A spread of soul food from Lucille's


Houston, Texas

Lucille’s is a tribute to the legacy of Lucille B. Smith, great-grandmother of the restaurant owners and brothers Chris and Ben Williams. She was an educator, innovator, cookbook author and founder of her own corporation, creating the very first hot roll mix. The restaurant menu includes a variety of traditional Southern favorites, paired with local ingredients and trends of the day.

“People equate soul food with Southern cuisine, and that’s not what we’re doing here,” says Executive Chef Chris Williams. Rather, it’s the ingredients they use that make the food Southern, he explains. To create seasonal menus, Williams draws from local Gulf Coast ingredients and the restaurant’s backyard organic garden. From fried chicken to blackened catfish to grits with oxtail broth to onions escabeche, everything on the menu is a treat for the taste buds. One thing you shouldn’t miss, though, is Lucille’s Chili Biscuits.

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Lassis Inn storefront
via @Lassis-Inn/Facebook

Lassis Inn

Little Rock, Arkansas

This is one of the oldest restaurants in the state and one of just two Arkansas restaurants to earn the prestigious James Beard American Classics Award in 2020. The Inn was founded in 1905 by Joe and Molassis Watson who originally sold sandwiches from their home. When the Watsons added catfish to the menu, business boomed. The site was also a community meeting place, where African Americans could meet safely during the era of segregation.

After more than 100 years, The Lassis Inn is still only selling fried catfish and fried buffalo fish, endorsing the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Available side dishes include okra, coleslaw, hush puppies and french fries.

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A spread of soul food from Hoovers Cooking
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Hoover’s Cooking

Austin, Texas

Open more than 20 years, Hoover’s Cooking serves up popular soul food dishes with a Texas twist. Owner Hoover Alexander is a native Austinite and fifth-generation Texan so it’s no surprise that the menu also includes barbecue, Tex-Mex dishes and house-recipe sausage. Alexander’s number one goal is to provide good, home-cooked foods at a good value.

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Top 20 Soul Food Restaurants - A spread of soul food from The Breakfast Boys

The Breakfast Boys

Decatur, Georgia

The Breakfast Boys bring it, with just what is needed to start the day. This spot serves all-day breakfast and a popular brunch with options that are irresistible such as jerk chicken wings and sweet potato waffles, catfish and grits and plant-based foods for vegetarians. The stellar dish on the brunch menu is lobster mac and cheese. There are almost too many good items to choose from! Luckily, you can count on every one of them being delicious.

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Fries and a sandwich from Darryls Corner Bar And Kitchen

Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen

Boston, Massachusetts

Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen is a longtime fixture in the Boston area. The ownership baton was passed on to a new owner, Nia Grace in 2018. Grace, formerly the venue manager, is using her skill set to raise the bar at the popular site. The menu has seen minor adjustments while the music repertoire has expanded to include rhythm, blues, soul and jazz, with the goal of appealing to younger patrons.

Known for the good food and hospitality, during the pandemic Grace even added personal notes to take-out orders, maintaining the connection and warmth with Darryl’s customers. The menu includes an assortment of favored soul food dishes and classic sides such as candied yams, macaroni and cheese and plantains.

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A plate of soul food from Zanzibar Soul Fusion

Zanzibar Soul Fusion

Cleveland, Ohio

With two locations in the metro Cleveland area, Zanzibar Soul Fusion is a casual full-service restaurant, serving an array of Southern dishes. Choices include jerk wings to catfish to pork chops. And not to be missed are the Soul Rolls—egg roll wrappers stuffed with chicken, greens, black beans and roasted corn, accompanied with spicy remoulade sauce. You can pair your appetizer or main dish choices with sides of macaroni and cheese, collard greens or hoppin’ john.

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A spread of soul food from Lolos Chicken And Waffles
via @loloschickenandwafflesarizona/Facebook

Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles

Scottsdale, Arizona

I discovered this gem when visiting my friend who keeps me well-fed when I visit! I love Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles. Don’t let the name fool you, the menu includes tons of soul food favorites. My go-to choice is the chicken and waffles—dark meat chicken and fluffy waffles topped with maple syrup. They have fab service and staff and will accommodate dietary needs if you need to make adjustments.

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A plate of fried chicken from Cora Fayes Home Cookn And Soul Food

CoraFaye’s Home Cook’n & Soul Food

Denver, Colorado

Opened in 2006, Cora Faye’s is known for dishing up soul foods and Southern traditions at the family-run café. The home-cooked faves are family recipes and seasonings. Dishes include oxtails, neck bones and rabbit, along with fried and smothered chicken and pork chops. And what would soul food be without red drink? Yup, Cora Faye’s has red Kool-Aid on the menu too!

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A takeout box of soul food from Dulans Soul Food Kitchen

Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen

Los Angeles, California

Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen was created by the self-proclaimed “Soul Food King,” Adolph Dulan. The restaurant serves generous portions of traditional soul favorites such as smothered pork chops, fried fish, short ribs, smothered chicken and oxtails along with sides of mac and cheese, greens, stuffing and gravy. Inspired by the cafeteria-style service he saw in New York City, Dulan created his Soul Food Kitchen in 1999, which now operates in two locations in Southern California.

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Weaver D's storefront
via @WeaverDs/Facebook

Weaver D’s

Athens, Georgia

Owner Dexter Weaver has been serving Weaver D’s since 1986. Painted bright neon green, the 40-seat landmark café is on the edge of the city, and they’ve fed lots of folks from the University of Georgia and the surrounding community. In 1992 he was approached by Athens-born band R.E.M. with a request to license his slogan”Automatic for the People.” After the license deal, his notoriety grew with the release of an album by R.E.M., titled with the spot’s slogan.

The menu of home-cooked dishes offers fried chicken, catfish, collard greens, sweet potato souffle, macaroni and cheese, plus cornbread.

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Lillys Soulfood Restaurant And Catering storefront

Lilly’s Soulfood Restaurant & Catering

Windsor, Connecticut

Lilly’s has been serving noteworthy soul food for more than 30 years. The restaurant is family-owned and operated, dishing up plenty of good food and hospitality and earning rave reviews along the way.

Owner Andre Lilly has Jamaican roots, so he’s added a couple of Caribbean faves such as curried chicken and rice and peas to the list of soul food classics. Each of the desserts are mouthwatering, but as a pound cake girl—the coconut pound cake is the one for me.