The Best Soul Food Restaurants in America

The Best Soul Food Restaurants in America

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The Best Soul Food Restaurants in America

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

via lucilleshouston.com

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.