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Are There Any Upscale Soul Food Restaurants In Philly?

I remember when Bluezette opened years ago on 3rd & Market St. I read the menu outside and was really intrigued (fried lobster, etc). I made a reservation but was really disappointed with the food and service. However the atmosphere was nice and the beer, wine, and whiskey selections were great. Overtime however that even changed. Upstairs became a very loud dance area and the booze was reduced to the usual suspects mostly. Has anything as ambitious been attempted in terms of upscale Soul Food since in the area?

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  1. I believe that Warmdaddys on Front & Market could fit the bill.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Main Line Tracey

      Warmdaddy's is now at Reed and Columbus right? That was the place that came to my mind though.
      www.warmdaddys.com

    2. What about the new Ms. Tootsie's Bar & Lounge? As I understand it, it is an upscale club version of the longstanding soul food joint next door.

      Anyone been?

      1. The Bride & I went to Ms. Tootsie's for Saturday lunch, maybe 2-3 years ago. It was already white-tablecloth and nice inside. I had a truly great fried chicken platter with fantastic sides (greens and a really good mac/cheese), good cornbread, and The Bride had fried whiting, also good.

        1. Glorias on Fairmount Avenue somewhere around 21st Street might be such a place. Band, blues atmosphere, but focus perhaps on seafood soul food. I've only been once,a lont time ago, but enjoyed.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Bashful3

            I believe that Gloria's is now Heaven's Fine Dining, an alcohol free soul food place with a gospel brunch on Sundays. Have not tried it yet, but plan to in the future...

            1. re: scrappytea

              When you say "alcohol free" does that mean that you can't bring alcohol either as in a BYOB?

              1. re: Chinon00

                The owners are both ministers and as part of thier vision (www.heavensfinedining.com), they wanted a completely alcohol free (No BYOB) environment. If anyone has been there, I would like to hear about it.

                1. re: scrappytea

                  Yes I went to the sight and actually contacted them by email about their alcohol free policy. I've never understood why this must be in any environment. Wasn't Christ's first miracle changing water into wine? Wasn't there wine served at the Last Supper?

          2. Just yesterday I heard about a new place in Norristown that looks like upscale soulfood (without the absolutely outrageous prices). I have not tried it but it looks interesting.

            www.taylorsoldemill.com/

            Not sure if that is too much of a trek for you.

            If anyone knows, I would be interested to hear about it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jcmods

              I was there not last weekend but the weekend before last. I had a few of their bar menu items down stairs. Here's a quick review:

              Voodoo Shrimp - Not very good. The shrimp are cooked in their shell and then tossed in what is apparently Old Bay seasoning. As a consequence, when you remove the shell you remove the seasoning (which really isn't a big deal because again it's nothing more interesting than Old Bay seasoning).

              D-

              Southern Pride Wings – Not very good. The two ultimate hot wing sins were committed:
              1) They wings were those “bready” types
              2) The hot sauce wasn’t hot, nor anything more complex than typical Louisiana Hot Sauce

              D

              Black Angus Burger – Good. The meat was good along with the great choice of bread (the softer style bun grilled) and solid fries. The only draw back was the fact that I was asked how I wanted my burger done. I told the bartender Medium. When I sliced it down the middle to share with the SO the meat was solid gray. It was still a good burger but don’t go through the pretense of asking if the cook isn’t going to observe the request.

              B-

              The beer and whisky selection is solid (didn’t see the wine list so I can’t comment). Local brews from Victory, Weyerbacher and Stouts to name a few.

              B

              To be fair I guess I should go back and eat upstairs in the dining room. But if the food is coming out of the same kitchen as the bar menu I think that I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to get.

            2. I noticed recently that the Bluezette signage has been changed to Delilah's on Market, though last time I looked, they were not re-opened yet. I liked Bluezette's food a year or so ago, but wasn't aware if they'd gone downhill. Perhaps improvements are on the way...we'll see.

              2 Replies
              1. re: gina

                I hear what you are saying. I just don't know if Bluezette ever tried or cared (cares) to be in the same culinary league as other restaurants in that area like Buddakan, Fork, Tangerine, or even Continental, Amada, or Eulogy, which I personally would have loved to see from a Soul Food restaurant in Philly.

                1. re: Chinon00

                  There was an article in the Inquirer a few days ago about Delilah Winder's plans for transitioning Bluezette to Delilah's on Market, and apparently focusing more on the food:

                  http://www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/l...

              2. According to today's Inky, Bluezette is in bankrupcy.

                3 Replies
                1. re: JohnnyT

                  To me the restaurant focused too much on pleasing a certain segment of the African American community in Philadelphia. Again to my observation in that part of the city (Old City) your focus must include all types of folks if you wish to be successful. That means providing interesting and well executed food with good service, which Bluezette lacked from the very beginning IMHO.
                  Over time Bluezette became just "another" ladie's free before midnight, $2 green apple martini's, dj spinning the the same tired songs, type of place (which won't make enough money to survive in Old City).
                  I visited a Caribbean (owned) restaurant in NYC about 5 years ago named Bambou. The decor, service and food were all above par and the SO and I had a wonderful experience. I ordered a Jerked Chicken entree and asked the waiter what I should pair with this dish. Without hesistation he responded "Oh the Cabernet Franc". It was perfect. Something like that just would have never happened at Bluezette.

                  1. re: JohnnyT

                    Just to clarify, the Inquirer article states that Bluezette had been operating in bankruptcy for almost a year. The news is that the place closed in November. While Delilah Winder talked about opening another Delilah's branch there, the owner of the building doesn't seem to be on board with those plans and now, Delilah is mum. Here's a link to Michael Klein's article: http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/16...

                    1. re: Cruz

                      Well if Bluzette gets another opportunity at that location I would:
                      1. Get a young energetic chef and a kitchen staff who can run a kitchen (I ordered Fried Green Tomatoes at Bluzette back in '03 and I'm stilling waiting for them). Furthermore, I'd instruct the chef that this is a Soul Food restaurant but to please feel free to experiment as much as he’d like. And after that I'd just turn him loose. And I would feature the chef as part of the branding of the restaurant; which suggests that this is a serious food establishment.
                      2. I would also get more experienced and friendly staff. I found that there was a weird judgmental quality to some of the greeters and some of the waitstaff seemed a bit overwhelmed at times.
                      3. And again I would tone down the “night spot” element and reestablish the lounge feel that the place had upstairs when it first opened (i.e. if you must have music keep at a volume where it can be enjoyed but where you can also have a conversation). That will attract an element that will allow a serious food place to thrive and not devolve into what Bluzette became.

                  2. not really what the original poster was asking for (since they mentioned "upscale") but i thought it was worth noting for anyone on the southern food hunt: i counted at least three reputable-looking southern-style restaurants on germantown ave today, somewhere in the low 4000 blocks near hunting park ave & broad street. one of them had a sign along the lines of "eat'n like you did at mama's." you should be warned, though; it's not a nice area of town.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rabidog

                      I just came back from Warmdaddys.The fried chicken and mac and cheese was average but an ample portion. The service was somewhat slow.They had good champanye by the glass and I enjoyed a couple of their "Warmdady's lemonades" made with Jim Bean and Southern Comfort. But they had a very enjoyable brass band. It was an overall great time and I would go back again.

                    2. I guess what I’d like to see is a Soul Food Restaurant that challenges our conception of what Soul Food can be. One thing that I admire about both French and Italian cooking is their ability to make not only delicious but elegant dishes from marginal ingredients (i.e. liver, kidneys, milled corn products, pig’s feet, chitterlings, etc). I once had a pig’s foot stuffed with foie gras. On another occasion it was kidneys in a cognac sauce served over polenta.
                      Since much of Soul Food originates from the creative use of marginal ingredients (to sustain the lives of slaves) this would appear to me to be a natural transition; from the merely edible (as it must have been in the beginning) to the enjoyable (as it is today) to the elegant (as it could be). In a way it could be considered a celebration of the American and African American spirit: to reconstruct something into something not merely useful but wonderful out what was considered waste.

                      1. I really enjoy Angie Brown's in Mount Airy. I'm not sure if it meets the traditional definition of soul food, but they have great southern and cajun inspired dishes.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: AmblerGirl

                          I'm sure you've tried Geechee Girl, then. A friend at work had her wedding reception there, and reminded me that they have moved -- still on Germantown Ave, but a few blocks away.

                          Southern/Gullah inspired cooking - not necessarily soul food, but I've had some really delicious meals there. One warning - have a little cracker or something before you go -- the service can be agonizingly slow. Friendly, but slow!

                          1. re: Patiod

                            Question: are the owners/chef Gullah? I saw a documentary on Gullah cooking and was really intrigued. I'd love to know if it is authentic. I went to their website but there was no information on this topic.

                            Thanks