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Soul Daddy

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So who's checking out America's Next Great Restaurant at MOA today? I picked Soul Daddy as a favorite from the very start and while I'm happy he won, a part of me is disappointed that the menu doesn't have fried chicken and waffles. I get that they wanted to take it a healthier route, but sometimes you just want fried chicken and waffles. :) Looking forward to reports of how this place is. I won't be checking it out until the buzz dies down a bit.

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  1. I watched the show and am pretty excited to try it. I will probably hit it sometime this week. I would be shocked if they dont have fried chicken at SOME point. I think if they can make a good fried chicken they will have some nice sales from it ;)

    1. I'm not familiar with the show aside from chatter online, etc. but I happened to be walking past looking for lunch just after 11 a.m. today. The line wasn't too long yet (was ~40 people deep by the time I got out). So....here was my experience:

      - "Country style ribs" Three ribs, dry rubbed. They hold them under heat lamps right in front of you as you walk up to order (with the chicken). I got my order to-go, walked 50 yards to the food court tables and dug in. The ribs were cold. Not just room temperature, but actually cold. I never return food to the kitchen...ever...but I contemplated heading back over and trading them in. The fact that they were also fatty (in a bad way...believe me I like some sizzling fatty BBQ goodness) and the now-very long line led me to decide it wasn't worth packing everything back up.

      - Small cornbread waffle. Outstanding. Just a hockey puck sized, Belgian waffle style portion of crunchy goodness.

      - Sweet potato salad (cold, but by design as opposed to the ribs). Fine...just cubed sweet potato with some flavorless herb (maybe parsley?).

      - "Cheesy grits". Make some Quaker quick grits, put in a drop of yellow dye #5 and stir. No cheese flavor whatsoever...actually, no flavor at all. I was wishing there was salt and pepper on the food court tables. I ended up using the leftover butter from the waffle to give it something...anything. Also dipping my fork in the sauces (3 available, self-serve, all mediocre) then taking bites. Blah.

      Funny, after I got back to the office, I looked up the story on this place/the guy who won. According to the Star Trib, "Woods was unemployed and selling waffles and wings from his apartment." After eating lunch, it made me wish I could find someone unemployed and selling waffles and wings from his apartment or something along those lines.

      8 Replies
      1. re: MSPD

        Thanks for sharing. This is basically why I wont go to a place first day open, I'm sure they dont have their $*%# together yet. I guess I'll prolly wait a couple weeks and give it a shot. Good marketing to do that show first really when you think about it.

        1. re: Warehouse

          I'm somewhat forgiving of the first day/week etc. glitches but these seemed more conceptual/execution. First day glitches, to me, are things like inexplicably long waits, counter people not knowing how to ring things up/not being familiar enough to answer questions, running out of food items, and credit card machines malfunctioning, etc.

          This operation was going very smoothly. Think Chipotle...it's eerily similar, especially how they pass your food from one person to another, shouting questions at you, even if your food happens to be 15 feet further down the line than you are. (I like Chipotle for what it is, BTW) I was in and out of there very efficiently...things actually looked well rehearsed behind the counter.

          I was also disappointed at the sight of the food under heat lamps. They were turning over food very quickly so, in theory, it COULD end up OK, but in general, that's a great way to ruin food fast. I can't imagine what it will be like walking in there at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday in July when they are dead and that poor meat will just be sitting there drying out. For sure the grits were just a failed recipe.

          But....yeah, to be sure/fair, it's probably best to wait a while.

        2. re: MSPD

          I assumed the menu would include fried chicken and baked chicken. I will get the baked, but I'm not sure how this is going to do well with this menu.

          I don't see a way to contact the chain to request nutritional information. That seems like a big mistake if they are claiming to be a healthy alternative.

          1. re: sheepy

            Seriously... They do'nt have fried chicken or waffles?

            Healthy is fine... but people want good stuff.... Here's some nice Chipotle sustainable calorie information for you if you want to eat healthy...

            Chipotle Mexican Grilled Chicken Burrito

            1,179 calories
            47 g fat
            125 g carbs
            2,656 mg sodium

            and the side of chips is 570 calories. I offer this as information not as a knock on Chpotle which I enjoy and find delicious.

            Soul Daddy doesn't need to make us healthy... Arby's doesn't, McDonalds doesn't, Chipotle doesn't... I want soul food... Soul food is fattening... That's what I want. I go to Wendy's for a Classic Double... to BK for a Triple Stacker.... to Taco Bell for whatever the hell they offer that is guaranteed to kill my diet on a calorie per minute basis much less calorie per day.

            Juwan... Get your stuff together and serve us some Fried Chicken... You can't be soul food without BBQ, Fried Chicken, Greens, Grits, .... And did I say FRIED CHICKEN.

            Even Bobby Flay wants it.

            1. re: tarbaby

              Juwan... Get your stuff together and serve us some Fried Chicken
              i'm pretty sure Jamawn has no control over it at this point...Steve Ells & his people seem to be calling the shots now.

              1. re: tarbaby

                Exactly. Not having the fried chicken and waffles is going to be a fatal flaw, I'm afraid. The whole point of soul food is that it's indulgent. I can easily bake a chicken breast at home, but I don't want my kitchen to smell like a big greaseball for fried chicken. THAT, I will go out for... and wasn't the whole point of getting rid of the grilled cheese guy that you want to have something people won't make at home? I really hope they didn't completely get this concept wrong, but I think they may have. :/

                1. re: Seige

                  I agree. I am the type who will go to Chipotle and get some black beans, chicken, veggies, no cheese or sour cream and get it in a bowl, then only eat part of it to avoid going over the fat/sodium/calorie content I'm supposed to have, but there is no way I would expect most people to eat that way. Honestly, it sucks, and if I didn't have a medical issue you can bet I'd be out in search of fried chicken. By the way, there is a waffle on the menu.

            2. re: MSPD

              Ewww... total bummer on the ribs. Sounds like they still have a lot to work out.

            3. Yup for sure, not having fried foods and other "unhealthy" options is going to kill them IMO. There was another competitor something like Angels and Demons, with basically a healthy and an unhealthy option for each item (IE, baked and friend chicken). Yes people like healthy food, but honestly more people out there like unhealthy food lol.

              My biggest surprise is that the "investors" (stone, flay, chipotle guy, etc) didn't make sure they had these unhealthy options. I thought these guys knew the restaurant business.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Warehouse

                Folks, we have removed some posts that were out of scope for this thread, please keep the focus of this thread on the dining experience at the Minneapolis branch of Soul Daddy.

              2. I went there yesterday for lunch...and maybe I am slightly biased as I am from the South but I wasn't impressed with the food. Granted... I am not saying it was horrible but maybe it is just too commercialized. I do hope some of the stuff is just a first week thing (Like some of the employees seeming like deer in headlights.)

                Biscuit: Too dry and dense. Kind of felt like a brick when it was sitting on the plate.

                Grits: I am a giant fan of grits and I would say there were rather bland. Like one other post said, it just seemed like they added yellow food coloring. The grits needed some more salt and just all around flavor.

                Collards: IMO...too crunchy... could have been cooked longer

                Sauces: Personal preference I guess on these. I did like the mustard base cause and the hot sauce was just a hot sauce.

                I'm not saying not try it. Go and make your own opinions...but I would probably wait a week and hope they get some of these things fixed.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Matronix

                  So no fried chicken yet i take it? They better change that fast IMO

                2. Just went today, my friend watched the show and she wanted to take me for lunch knowing I'm a bit of a foodie. Of course I had heard of the show but never watched it, my thought was its American Idol for food.

                  I had the pulled pork sandwich w/ cheesey grits and cornbread washed down with a fine orange soda. Pulled pork sandwich meat was dry with little detectable flavor I immediately went and found the bbq sauce which was pretty good(perhaps a tad too sweet) looks like they make it in house too. Like someone already mentioned the grits are clearly a failed recipe no there has to be almost no cheese in this recipe its basically what I assume they serve in soviet block prisons for every meal.The cornbread is made to look like a small waffle but, it doesn't have much taste to it I they clearly avoided using any sugar when making this and they don't even have syrup for this faux-waffle. My friend had the chicken and said it was also dry and flavorless, which she later described as "soul food my grandma would eat.... that means bland".

                  I won't be going back unless the menu gets overhauled. The blandness might survive in the midwest especially in the Mall of America but, I can't see how it will last to long in New York and LA especially with Roscoe's.

                  1. I sure won't be going there. For one, it's at the MOA!! That's the last place a real soul food joint would open. I don't know anything about the background, but if the 'owner' was bought out by a corporation, they certainly would be changing recipes and making it bland, worrying about what the next fad will be.

                    1. If this were a "real soul food joint" it would be in the hood, have sporadic opening times, need i go on. I thought this is a fast food franchise type place. Dumb, quick food works, this is America. I do enjoy Chipole, and feel only slightly guilty of giving a bit of money to the Man.

                      1. I'm planning on going there when I'm in Minnesota for vacation this summer...I was let down he abandoned the original concept...it sounded tasty. Oh, well. I'm still going to visit this when I'm on vacation. Then I'll tell everyone what I think!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: ShadowStar83

                          Hopefully you're planning some non-Mall of America meals while in MSP (?).

                          If you like the style of food Soul Daddy is offering, find one of the two Brasa locations (one on Grand Ave in St. Paul or one in NE Minneapolis).

                          1. re: MSPD

                            Yea, I am. Thanks for letting me know.

                        2. I gave it a try on Monday. I had the pork, which is just the pork sandwich without the bread. The pork was decent on it's own but, agreeing with everyone else, it had no flavor of its own. Therefore it was sauce time. The order-taker suggested the mustard sauce and I'd agree that it is the best. The plain bbq sauce didn't have much flavor, like a generic grocery store bbq sauce. The hot sauce tasted mostly like a tabasco sauce. Combining the bbq and hot sauce created a good combination though. So with a good mustard sauce and a mix of the bbq/hot sauce, I was happy.

                          I got the wild rice salad and the black-eyed pea salad. Both were pretty good. My companion ordered the sweet potatoes and the green beans, and could not get over the fact that they were cold. IDK - it didn't bother me but I picked two sides that I expected to be served cold.

                          The cornbread waffle puck was mediocre. I love cornbread and think that like most things at Soul Daddy, they've skimped on flavor.

                          The total bill was $10 or $11. I'd rather go to a real soul food place like Willy D's but this place was decent. I'll probably go back in a couple of weeks to try the chicken and grits. Hopefully I get more flavor, otherwise I'll be done eating there.

                          1. Turns out the owner is moving to Lakeville to focus on the MOA location.

                            ...Oh, and the NYC location is already closed.


                            2 Replies
                              1. re: BigE

                                the waffle was the only thing outstanding on the menu; pulled pork was good; everything else average or worse. no way i would ever good this place over brasa (for basically the same price)

                              1. re: tart1

                                Sad....I feel bad for this guy. I think he had a good concept and the people running the show changed it too much. It sounded like there were going to try and make it more in line with what his concept was. Too bad they didn't give him a chance.

                                1. re: tart1

                                  That is shockingly unfair to the "winner." Some support from his "business partners" eh?

                                  1. re: Diana_mn

                                    I agree. More effort should have been made. One wonders if it was planned to let the winner's restaurant die.

                                  2. re: tart1

                                    i'm honestly heartbroken for Jamawn. poor guy would have been better off just continuing to sell chicken & waffles out of his house & trying to make a name for himself that way! Bobby Flay or Steve Ells needs to step up and offer the poor guy a seriously cushy job within one of their organizations - it's the least they can do after destroying his concept and flushing his dream down the toilet. ugh.

                                  3. Bad ideas usually have bad outcomes. Food rent at MOA in that location runs $205 per square foot. A 2500 sq ft restaurant will cost you over $40K per month just for rent. Add labor, utilities, food cost, etc and you have a HUGE hole to crawl out of. I don't know how large that space was, but it probably marginally exceeded 2500 sq ft at a minimum. Who in their right mind thinks a startup restaurant with no advertising or pedigree is going to make that monthly nut? MOA is busy 1.5 days a week for 6 months, 4 days a week over the summer and 7 days a week for two weeks in December. Everyone else believes it's busy 24/7/365 and it most definitely is not. I had a store there for several years and speak from painful experience about what the 'rest of the world' believes the mall offers and what it really does.

                                    As to the lack of support some may think the investors offered, please consider the fact that they most likely negotiated a kick out clause for the lease early enough that they could kill the concept before it killed the guy who was going to have to put his name (and all his assets) on the lease. They might have literally saved him millions by killing it before it got worse.

                                    Feel bad for the guy, but this turkey was doomed.

                                    My $.02


                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: HuaGung

                                      While I agree with your post, i disagree with your last point. I doubt if Jamawn had any money of his own to put into the restaurant. The producers of this show and the MOA are to blame. If they had an out in the contract after just 2 months and did not have a significant first year discount, then they did not do a good enough job negotiating the lease.

                                      1. re: John E.

                                        Didn't mean to infer he had to put anything "into" the project, but rather, after time, he would be liable for the lease which likely would have been structured for a minimum of five years. My guess is that they were given a "temporary to permanent" deal that required the producers to fully build out the space and even provide a rent guarantee through the 'kick out' window. Don't really know one way or the other. The Mall would only have been on the hook for the bad publicity (because they didn't have to put any money IN the space), the producers would have been on the hook for only that portion that their show's production budget required (the build out and opening costs), and when the project was supposed to start paying back the upfront costs (and couldn't) that they had a way to cut their losses.

                                        It could have been much worse for the young man if they had bled this out a year and then stuck him with the turkey and the debts.

                                        By their quick exit, it certainly looks as if they never had any intention of supporting the operation financially beyond startup.


                                        1. re: HuaGung

                                          Yeah. Off-topic, but NBC is to the point of desperation in its effort to put something watchable on the air. This was a stop-gap for them, and the collateral costs of paying for this or that build out don't compare with the cost of paying creative talent.

                                          The owner is assuredly disappointed, but comes out ahead. He has name recognition if he wants to open a soul food place in a market bereft of the stuff. If I were him, I'd find an investor, move into the Town Talk space, and make it a hipster chicken and waffle emporium.

                                          1. re: kevin47

                                            Great idea. The Twin Cities could use a good soul food place. I wonder if he closed on that house in Lakeville yet.

                                            1. re: kevin47

                                              Jamawn seemed to be pretty big on family and all his family is in Detroit so if he had his choice, I'm sure he would rather open his own place back home somewhere.

                                              1. re: John E.

                                                I hope at least that they gave Jamawn the right to use the Soul Daddy name and likeness and didnt force him into a non-compete