Souls Restaurant, Oakland
I finally checked out a new restaurant that opened in my neighborhood in East Oakland recently. As the name suggest, its focus is soul food. Tonight 4 of us gave it a try.
The building is brand new, with its own parking lot and security person. The interior is large, with a mix of small and group tables, and room to seat quite a large crowd. Waitstaff was prompt and extremely friendly. Most importantly, the food: We tried a range of items from the menu, including fried pork chops, fried chicken, new york steak, and smothered oxtails (the Friday special). Dishes came with corn muffins and a choice of 3 sides. I got the chicken (3 pieces for $15) with sides of greens, mac and cheese, and red beans and rice. I tasted the oxtails and yams but wasn't able to snag tastes of anything else on the table. All the servings were generous.
The corn muffins were fairly standard in flavor, but warm from the oven and the basket was refilled when we ran low. My chicken was moist and very tasty. My big concern with fried chicken is always whether or not the white meat will be dry--but the breast piece was hot and juicy inside with a nice crisp crust. I really liked my mac and cheese-- it had a layer of melted cheese on top, with a good cheddary taste to it. The greens were great, tender, with an edge of bitterness, but mostly a smokey flavor with small bits of pork throughout. The red beans and rice were fine, but didn't compete well with some of the other items and so ended up somewhat ignored. I tried small tastes of one of my dining companions oxtails and yams. I loved the yams--they were flavored with cinnamon but weren't overly sweet. As one of the group said--you could still taste the yam in the yams. I'm not a good judge of oxtails, having only eaten them a couple of times, but the person who ordered them loved them.
We didn't have room for dessert, so I can't report on that. Also, a friend has been raving about the catfish, but I'll have to go back to see if I agree. Actually, there were a number of fish dishes available, either fried or grilled.
This is a very pleasant space, owned and operated by a local church. No alcohol is served. There was great gospel music playing in the background, and the overall experience was really quite good. Everyone in our group enjoyed their meal. Apparently on Sunday the whole menu is available as a buffet, and it gets quite crowded after church gets out.
All in all, a successful adventure. I would definitely go back, both because the food was good, and because I'd like to support an effort to bring more good food in pleasant surroundings to my neighborhood.
There doesn't seem to be a place link for this yet, so here are the details:
Neighborhood: East Oakland
6403 Foothill Blvd
(between 64th Ave & Durant Ave)
Oakland, CA 94605
I returned for a second visit about 10 days ago, and again really enjoyed the fried chicken and the very pleasant service. This time I tried different sides--corn, which was flavorless; and potato salad, which was sort of standard issue and not to my liking. I can't remember the details now, but I think it was overly sweet. Also, on a very hot day, this place was a lovely refuge from the heat, due to the airy space and the air conditioning.
My department had a party catered by Souls last summer and I had a similar experience to yours.
Don't remember exactly, but the fried chicken was fine: crispy, flavorful, moist. My favorite dish was the mac and cheese: very cheesy and still creamy. The greens cooked with ham hock were slightly sweet that day. The red beans and rice were nothing special.
A quick +1 about the fried chicken. I moved out of the neighborhood a couple of years ago, and as a result had not been in a while. Last week I had lunch there, and while none of the sides were that impressive (nothing bad, just nothing memorable) the fried chicken is still top notch. Fried to order, the breast as moist as the thigh. Light seasoning but doesn't need a thing. 3 pieces of chicken of your choice, 3 sides, 2 cornbread muffins--a lot of food for about $15.00. Still a solid place.
Not sure how this popped up again but glad it did. Just found out my neighbor goes to this church but I had forgotten to get the address of their restaurant from her, so many thanks for the reminder!
When we last saw her (Sun 10/6/2013) she told us she is helping them work on a heart-healthy menu section, which they hope to debut soon.