If you are in the mood for some satisfying, tasty and comforting food – then there are a variety of different American soul food dishes that you should make sure that you try!
In this guide, we are going to be providing you with a helpful rundown of the very best restaurants across the country where you will be able to enjoy some soul food for yourself. Read on!
What Is Soul Food?
Even if you might not be overly familiar with the term soul food, chances are that you’ve tried some of the most classic dishes associated with this style of food – including things such as collard greens, fried meats and plenty of other comforting, calorie-rich foods.
The term itself, “soul food” did not actually come about until it became popularized as a cuisine in its own right curing the Civil Rights Movement that spanned across the 60s and 70s.
However, despite the fact that this term didn’t become mainstream until this period in time, it is very important to keep in mind that soul food is a type of cuisine that is rooted in the struggles that those who were enslaved faced.
By using a creative combination of many different West African cooking styles, as well as incredible ingenuity by those enslaved to create food that would be both enjoyable as well as provide sustenance.
A variety of classic and beloved dishes were created the enslaved peoples despite the fact that they were given food that the slave owners did not want.
Using creativity and ingenuity, scraps and foods that were given to the enslaved peoples by the slave owners were breaded, fried and transformed into flavorful.
Hearty dishes that we have all come to know and love today all over the world – not just in America. Moreso, in modern times, American soul food is a loved cuisine that many people tend to associate with Southern Comfort Food.
If you would like to try some soul food for yourself, then the good news is that you won’t need to make the visit to the deep south in order to enjoy some.
Nowadays, soul food is an incredibly popular cuisine that is enjoyed all throughout the world – so it should certainly come as no surprise to learn that this is a cuisine that is extremely popular in many cities throughout the USA.
The only question is, which restaurants offer the best? This brings us to our next section!
13 Best Soul Food Restaurants In The USA
So, now that we’ve given you a better understanding of what soul food is – as well as the history behind it – we are now going to be providing you with a carefully selected, handpicked list of some of the very best soul food restaurants in the USA.
Given the fact that soul food is such a popular cuisine – it means that there are many different restaurants dotted around the country that each offer their very own spins on classic soul food – but that doesn’t mean that all of it is good.
That being said, to take the hard work out of picking a restaurant (seriously, why is it so hard to decide on somewhere to eat?) we’ve taken it upon ourselves to roundup the restaurants that offer the best soul food ourselves, so you don’t have to.
Just keep reading to discover our top choices that you should try next time you’re in the mood to enjoy some soul food:
1. Willie Mae’s Scotch House
First up on our list, we have selected Willie Mae’s Scotch House! A fantastic place to visit if you’re in the mood for some soul food that will be able to offer you both convenience and authenticity.
Willi Mae’s Scotch House has been around since 1957 and is right in the heart of where soul food began – Louisiana!
Now a popular restaurant, Willie Mae’s Scotch House first opened up as a barbers, beauty shop and bar all in one – although in the modern day this restaurant operates solely as a dining location with a bar on-site.
It’s such a popular place to eat soul food, in fact, that Willie Mae’s Scotch House has an award-winning menu full to the brim with soul food classics!
The owner and creator of this restaurant and bar, Ms. Willie Mae received a James Beard Foundation Award for her delicious Southern American food.
While Travel Channel and the Food Network have both awarded Ms. Willie Mae with the claim of having the best fried chicken in America! Impressive or what?
If you’re in the mood for some classic soul food that isn’t going to disappoint, then trust us when we say that Willie Mae’s Scotch House is the place to pay a visit to whenever you’re in Louisiana next.
2. Bully’s Restaurant
Next up? Bully’s Restaurant! Located in the heart of Mississippi – Bully’s Restaurant resides in Jackson and is known for offering some of the very best soul food that you can get in the country.
So much so, in fact, that Bully’s Restaurant has been featured in a variety of publications including Culture Trip, Eater, Thrillist and much more!
Despite the fact that this is one of the most popular spots to get Soul Food in the country, you might be surprised to learn that Bully’s Restaurant is one of the more quiet and unassuming restaurants that we have come across – but it certainly makes up for it in its quality of food!
With its incredibly popular and critically acclaimed menu, Bully’s offers just about every soul food imaginable, as well as some additional dishes that Bullies have put their own twist on.
Along with offering plenty of delicious soul food items, Bully’s is also the place to go if you truly want to experience an authentic soul food dining experience like no other.
Why? Well, in keeping with the theme that no part of a food source should be wasted, Bully’s Restaurant also offers a variety of food options that originate from Soul Food, including ham hocks, oxtail, pig’s feet and plenty of other interesting foods to choose from and try.
3. Amy Ruth’s
Another fantastic restaurant in America that offers some of the best soul food that you can get your hands on is a place called Amy Ruth’s.
Named after the owner’s beloved grandma, Amy Ruth’s is known for not only offering some of the very best soul food that money can buy.
But it is also known for being one of the most welcoming places to people from all walks of life that are in the mood to enjoy some comforting soul food!
It’s located in Harlem – which is a district in New York, and offers a variety of classic soul food dishes that anyone is sure to enjoy.
A family owned restaurant to this very day, Amy Ruth’s started off as a small family business, in which Carl S. Redding (the owner) as well as his cousins would help their grandparents prepare deliciou soul food dishes in their childhood home.
From the quality time spent preparing food with his grandparents, Carl S. Redding went on to create one of the most iconic soul food restaurants in the world (not just in the states).
Where he has made sure to feature traditional dishes on the menu that were originally made during his childhood spent preparing food with his grandma.
The menu itself is versatile, delicious and tailored to all different types of taste preferences. From daily specials that will allow you to try something new and interesting.
All the way to classic soul food dishes including fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and plenty more – this colorful and vibrant restaurant steeped in history is the place to be if you’re in need of some soul food.
4. Florida Avenue Grill
If you’re located in Florida or you’re currently planning a vacation there, then another restaurant that you should consider paying a visit to during your time there is an extremely popular soul food spot called Florida Avenue Grill.
Known to be one of the best, as well as one of the oldest, soul food restaurants in the US, Florida Avenue Grill has been around since 1944 and was initially opened up by a man named Lacy Williams and his wife who is named Bertha.
Steeped in history, Florida Avenue Grill has become a go-to for many who are in the mood for soul food, and it has survived many historical moments including the 1968 riots.
For just over 70 years and counting, Florida Avenue Grill has been one of the most popular and beloved restaurants for those seeking soul food in the world – and many people make the trip down to Florida just to try out some of Avenue Grilll’s authentic soul food for themselves.
Not just that, but besides being one of the oldest and long standing restaurants for soul good in the entire world, Florida Avenue Grill is also known for its incredibly vast menu that ranges from everything from creamy macaroni and cheese, all the way to perfectly fried pork chops that have been generously doused in thick gravy. Yum.
Next up on our list we have selected Alcenia’s – which we’re sure you might have already heard of if you’re already a big fan of trying out soul food restaurants.
Located right in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee, Alcenia’s is another soul food restaurant that is steeped in history and full of friendly atmosphere, great people and delicious food.
Featuring a colorful interior of beautiful art and a cozy atmosphere ideal for people from all walks of life to enjoy – Alcenia’s has quickly built up a reputation for being one of the best places in the world to enjoy some authentic and comforting soul food.
The restaurant boasts an awesome team of chefs that have all been trained to prepare soul food dishes perfectly.
And there are even some who had the opportunity to compete on Chopped – one of the world’s most popular cooking TV competitions!
If all of that wasn’t impressive enough, Alcenia’s has also got the seal of approval of many celebrities and popular publications – including the likes of Oprah Winfrey, NBC as well as The Travel Channel.
So much so that Alcenia’s famous and iconic sweet potato cobbler was once used as a centerpiece dish drying one episode of Food Network’s highly popular, critically acclaimed show The Best Thing I Ever Ate!
Plus, along with offering a variety of classic soul food dishes that we’re sure everyone will enjoy (we’re talking macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, pork chops, collard greens and so much more) Alcenia’s also accommodates those with different dietary needs including vegetarian and those who follow a gluten-free diet.
If you’re looking for a restaurant that will satisfy your soul food cravings while also offering plenty of versatility – Alcenia’s is the place to go.
6. Mikki’s Soulfood Cafe
Another great soul food restaurant that we recommend you try and pay a visit to if you’re ever in the Houston area is Mikki’s Soulfood Cafe!
This unique spot is the perfect place to pay a visit to if you’re in the mood to enjoy some delicious cocktails along with your Mikki’s soul food of choice!
In this cafe, you’ll find a cocktail bar right next to a dine-in restaurant where you will be able to tuck into some delicious soul food dishes both classic and new.
Some of the weekday specials that you can expect to find in Mikki’s Soulfood Cafe are Texas-sized plates (aka generous porin sizes) as well as two sides and a big slice of fresh cornbread for you to enjoy.
Along with that, you’ll also be able to enjoy the friendly atmosphere and welcoming staff that Mikki’s Soul Food Cafe has also become iconic for.
They place popular music, have flat screen TVs that play sports games and more – not to mention offering a variety of different alcoholic beverages to enjoy while you tuck into your favorite soul food dishes.
No matter whether you’d like to enjoy a family meal or hang out with your best friends, if you’re in the mood for cocktails and some comforting soul food – trust us when we say that Mikki’s Soulfood cafe is simply the place to be. You’ll love it!
7. Busy Bee Cafe
Busy Bee Cafe is located in Atlanta, Georgia and has been around since 1947.
It was initially founded by a self taught and extremely talented chef named Lucy Jackosn, who decided to open up a local eatery for her community to enjoy delicious soul food from at a reasonable price.
Ever since its initial creation way back in 1947, Busy Bee Cafe has gone on to become one of the most celebrated and successful soul food restaurants in the world, and has even won a James Beard Award for America’s Classics. How impressive is that?
Retaining the same appearance and atmosphere that it did all the way back in 1947 when it was first created, Busy Bee Cafe has a charming atmosphere with all of the old late 40s appeal such as red brick colorways, as well as an original soda fountain that was there when it first opened!
If you’re thinking of paying a visit to this dining spot next time you happen to be in Atlanta, we highly recommend that you consider trying out their brined and breaded fried chicken – which is widely considered to be one of the best fried chicken soul food dishes in the country.
Along with the perfectly fried chicken, you will also be able to choose between a side of either rice, belgian waffles or even perfectly fried golden fries!
Of course, this isn’t the only meal that you will be able to enjoy if you decide to pay a visit to Busy Bee’s in Atlanta, Goeria.
Along with this popular dish, there are a variety of other mouthwatering soul food classics that we’re sure you’ll absolutely love.
Including fried chicken, fried pork chops, pig’s feet, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and plenty other dishes!
Oh, and while you’re there, why don’t you consider pairing a soul food dish with a classic coca cola? Here at Busy Bee’s, you’ll be able to enjoy a coca cola drink the old fashioned way – with a dollop of ice cream served on top!
8. Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place
Another incredibly popular place to enjoy some soul food if you’re in the mood for it is the Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place!
Known to be one of the very best places to enjoy soul food in America, Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place is incredibly popular and has been featured in The Daily Meal, Thrillist as well as the Food Network.
Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place has been open for over 20 years and was founded by a lady named Ms. Jesse.
Even though she initially opened it up by herself as a solo venture, Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place went on to become a family run business as Ms. Jessie went on to recruit the help of her daughter Nell.
Ever since then, Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place is one of the most popular places to visit if you’re in need of some delicious soul food, and now runs under the careful management of Cynthia and Isaac Wilson.
Paying homage to the owner even to this very day, if you’re planning on paying a visit to Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place you will be able to enjoy some original dishes created by Ms. Jessie that are still featured on the menu!
Along with this, you will also be able to enjoy a variety of additional dishes welcomed by the Wilson owners from their own family cookbook.
An ideal spot to visit for anyone on the mood for some family-friendly, authentic soul food – Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place offers a variety of classic soul food dishes.
That you’re sure to absolutely love as well as a variety of more modern soul food dishes with a fun twist including things such as the meatloaf sandwiches, as well as the roast beef Manhattans!
Plus, besides offering a variety of delicious soul food on their menu, you’ll also be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving-style meal whenever you happen to be in the mood for it!
At Kountry Kitchen Soul Food, they offer Thanksgiving food all year round – it’s a must-place to visit if you’re in the mood for soul food or an early Thanksgiving treat!
9. This Is It
A truly famous soul food restaurant, This Is It is a famous dining spot that is known for offering premium, fresh and absolutely delicious soul food. Located in Houston.
This Is It was initially opened way back in 1959 (in the third ward area of Houston at the time) and since then, it has gone on to become one of the most celebrated and popular places to visit for those in need of soul food.
Not only that,, but it has remained proudly black owned ever since its inception, too.
With over 70 years under its belt and counting, This Is It has not only built up a huge cult following over the years – but This Is It has also received a variety of critical acclaim both fire and wide.
In recent times, This Is It has even had the honor of appearing in Texas Monthly, which is one of the most popular and widely read newspapers in the Texas area.
Besides that, you might also be interested to learn that This Is It has remained a black-owned family business ever since it was first created back in the 50s.
At the time of writing this guide, This Is It is currently on its four generation of family ownership – with the current owner being Craig Joseph – and he has gone on to continue celebrating his family’s soul food recipes and great, great grandparent’s brand values to this very day.
Ideal for those who love soul food as well as those who would like to try it for the very first time.
This Is It has an extremely welcoming atmosphere as well as lovely staff that have been in the business for many years and who describe themselves as being one big family.
Besides having a welcoming atmosphere, This Is It also offers one of the very best soul food menus that we have ever seen, and have even won an award for their Mac and Cheese!
Along with iconic soul food dishes, we think that you might also be pleased to learn that This Is It also offers a variety of famous Texan sides including pinto beans, black eyed peas, sauteed carrots and plenty of other delicious soul food options!
If you’re in need of a recommendation and you’d like to pay This Is It a visit – we recommend that you try out their fried fish and chicken dumplings. You’ll love them!
10. Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room
Next up, we have Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room! Just like the name of this particular Soul Food Restaurant might suggest, this is the place to be if you’re in search of a soul food restaurant that will make you feel right at home.
Rich in history, Mrs.Wilkes Dining Room has been around since the 1940s and was initially intended to be a boarding house that offered food via their kitchen.
Ever since then, however, Mrs.Wilkes Dining Room has become solely a restaurant and is known as being one of the very best in the country for offering soul food.
Mrs.Wilkes Dining Room has remained in the same area that it was initially opened up (Savannah, Georgia) and to this very day is a family-owned restaurant.
At the time of writing this guide, Mrs.Wilkes Dining Room is currently being run by the original owner’s granddaughter who is named Marcia Thompson.
Inviting and friendly, Mrs.Wilkes Dining Room has an airy and stylish interior that consists of rustic exposed bricks as well as quaint white table cloths to really make you feel as though you’re dining in your own home as soon as you sit down.
There’s plenty of delicious soul food to try out on the menu ranging from macaroni and cheese all the way to perfectly golden, crispy fried chicken.
And the best part? Unlike some other restaurants in the USA, Mrs.Wilkes Dining Room is passionate about supporting its community as well as the preservation of our Earth.
Which is why Mrs.Wilkes Dining Room only takes it produce and other ingredients from farmers and local businesses while also placing an emphasis on sustainability in all that they do.
Another thing that we love about Mrs.Wilkes Dining Room is the way that they offer a variety of sharing platters along with dishes intended for solo-eating.
Ideal for families and loved ones to gather and enjoy some delicious and freshly prepared soul food, Mrs.Wilkes Dining Room offers a variety of large, family-sized portions for a group to enjoy together.
11. Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food Restaurant
Another popular soul food place that you should make yourself aware of is Sylvia’s – which is a highly popular restaurant located in the Harlem area of New York – most specifically Malcolm X Blvd.
A family run, probably black-owned restaurant – Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food Restaurant has been around since the 1960s and has gone on to build up a reputation for being one of the best haunt’s to get soul food and to enjoy a great atmosphere ever since
Just like the name suggests, Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food Restaurant was initially founded by the creator – Sylvia Woods. It’s been owned by other family members ever since.
Boasting a refined and welcoming atmosphere as well as a stylish interior decor, Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food Restaurant is ideal for soul food enthusiasts and first timers alike.
Not to mention offering an extremely versatile menu that will cater to people from all walks of life, as well as cater to a variety of different taste preferences!
Along with offering a versatile and varied menu for you to choose from, it is also worth mentioning that Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food Restaurant also offers a gospel brunch every sunday.
This unique menu only offered on Sunday by Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food Restaurant features a variety of soul food options as well as a delicious list of New York and classic Southern cocktails that you will be able to pair with your meals.
So, if you find yourself in New York and want to try some authentic soul food with a welcoming and vibrant atmosphere – we think that Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food Restaurant will be a highlight of your trip!
12. Martha Lou’s Kitchen
If you only have the opportunity to visit one soul food restaurant – we highly recommend that you make Martha Lou’s Kitchen your restaurant of choice!
With over 30 years of experience, Martha Lou’s Kitchen is known for offering some of the best soul food you can get – as well as a variety of contemporary dishes ideal for soul food lovers of all ages and walks of life.
Located in Charleston in Morrison Drive, Martha Lou’s Kitchen is known for offering a variety of delicious soul food dishes – including starters, main meals as well as a variety of delectable desserts!
Sure, even though it might not be as flashy as some of the other soul food spots that we have mentioned in this restaurant roundup – what Martha Lou’s kitchen does offer is affordable soul food for everyone to enjoy.
Keeping it real ever since they were opened, Martha Lou’s is known for offering food that is freshly made, comforting and affordable in price.
From perfectly fried crispy golden chicken all the way to creamy macaroni and cheese – there’s something at Martha Lou’s for everyone.
In particular, if you’re thinking of paying a visit next time you happen to be in Charleston, we can’t recommend the lima beans enough.
They’re perfect as a tasty soul food snack on their own and even better when enjoyed as a side to a main meal!
Along with all of the above, it is also worth noting that the recipes at Martha Lou’s are tried, true and have been carefully created by the very family who own it, so you can rest assured that if you do pay a visit to this soul food diner, you’ll be in for a truly authentic soul food dining experience.
If you’re on the hunt for a no-frills soul food restaurant where you will be able to enjoy some delicious food without any fuss or faff – Martha Lou’s kitchen will not disappoint.
13. BLVD Bistro
Last but certainly not least, the final soul food restaurant that we have to share with you here today is BLVD Bistro – which is the perfect soul food restaurant for anyone that happens to love seafood and meat dishes!
Known for its super friendly and welcoming atmosphere, BLVD Bistro is vibrant and fun, and offers its guests delicious soul food paired with a relaxing atmosphere and plenty of good music to sit back and vibe to.
The restaurant itself has a stylish yet casual decor, while the in-house chefs are known for their tendency to put their own spin on some of the most classic soul food dishes we all know and love.
If you’re thinking about paying a visit to BLVD Bistro, it’s located on Frederick Douglass Blvd in New York City – and offers a classic soul food menu that will cater to your every craving.
In particular, we recommend that you try their fried chicken sliders on buttermilk biscuits. It’s my favorite!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Soul Food Considered American Food?
Even though soul food has become an integral part of American culture (especially in the modern day) it is important to keep in mind that soul food originates from African Americans.
Even though soul food is a term that we have all come to know – the term itself did not come about until the Civil Rights Movement that took place in the 60s and 70s mainly in America.
Up until that point, the main dishes that comprised the soul food cuisine were meals that had originated from the transatlantic slave trade.
The enslaved peoples used their ingenuity to take the scraps of food that they were given and turn them into delicious, “soulful” and comforting food that was both delicious and able to provide nourishment. Cooking styles such as frying were commonly used to help create these recipes.
Which City Has The Best Soul Food?
This is a great question to ask! If you’re a fan of soul food – then we’re sure that you’ll agree with us when we say that many different states throughout America each believe that they offer the best soul food.
There’s plenty of fun rivalry! Still, even though there’s plenty of subjectivity to take into account when it comes to food (just think about it, everyone has their own personal taste preferences) it is widely considered that New Orleans, Chicago and Texas offer some of the very best soul food in the country.
Although, no matter where you happen to be in America – you can rest assured that you will be able to find great soul food in every city that you visit.
What State Is The Home Of Soul Food?
Soul food is known for coming from Southern states such as Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia as well as a collection of other states that are all known as being in the deep south.
During the transatlantic slave trade, enslaved people were given scraps and other unwanted food, where they then used their ingenuity and creativity to create dishes that formed the foundations of this much-loved style of food.
Ever since originating in the deep south, however, soul food has gone on to become one of the most celebrated and popular types of food not only in America but also in the rest of the world, too!
If you’re ever in the mood for some delicious soul food, you’ll be able to find this style of food just about anywhere you visit – including in all of the states of America.
As we’re sure you’re already well familiar with, there are also many fast food restaurants that draw inspiration from this cuisine, too – such as Mcdonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s to name a few.
Why Is Soul Food Unhealthy?
Typically, many soul food dishes often tend to contain large amounts of sugar, fat, meat and other fattening ingredients that can be unhealthy if not eaten in moderation.
These types of ingredients have a higher risk of contributing to health issues such as heart disease, obesity, strokes and more – which is why it’s important to make sure that you are enjoying your soul food as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle!
The Bottom Line
There we have it! You have made it to the end of our guide. All in all, we think that it’s pretty safe to say that soul food is one of the most beloved (as well as one of the most delicious) styles of food that you can get.
From crispy fried chicken all the way to perfectly prepared collard greens – no matter what you decide to order, one thing’s certainly for sure: you can count that your soul food of choice is going to be hearty, delicious and totally comforting.
Now that you have taken the time to read through all of the above, we hope that we have been able to give you some inspiration on where to get some yummy soul food from next time you visit the states – or even some inspiration on a new dining place to stop by if you live there.
As you will have seen from our guide above, there are plenty of amazing restaurants located all throughout the country that are able to offer some of the most delicious soul food that money can buy.
The only question we have left to ask you is – which restaurant are you going to try first?
Before you go, why don’t you give this page a bookmark?
If you’re ever in need of some more inspiration on where to get your hands on the very best soul food in the country – you’ll always be able to come back and refresh your memory on our top restraint recommendations.
Thank you for reading!