Best Black-Owned Soul Food Restaurants in the U.S.
Soul food is a culinary tradition distinctive to Black American culture. It dates back to slavery when slaves had to make do with what little slave-owners decided to provide. Mixing ingredients present in the Americas with the gastronomy of the west coast of Africa, enslaved people made a cuisine of their own.
This gastronomy has survived until the present day and is now stronger than ever, having become part of mainstream American food. So, are you ready to sink your teeth into some fastback, chitins, fried fish and collard greens? These are the best Black-owned soul food restaurants in the U.S.
5. Jackson Soul Food
Year opened: 1946
Location: Miami, Florida
Bottom line: Though Miami is now mostly associated with Latino culture, the city also has a sizeable Black American population. The most legendary soul food restaurant in the city is Jackson Soul Food, which has been feeding people for over 75 years!
Historic Overtown boasts of having the original location, but there is also one in Opa-Locka. Whichever you visit will have an absurdly good boiled fish or shrimp with grits.
What People Say About Jackson Soul Food
"Glad we found this gem while visiting. Hands down the best breakfast we have had while here. We asked what was good, the waiter said 'everything,' and he didn't lie! All the way down to the sweet tea!! You won't be disappointed. Good portions and well-seasoned!" — Makeva P.
*Reviews may be edited for clarity, brevity and grammar.
4. Willie Mae’s Scotch House
Year opened: 1957
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Bottom line: Like the wonderful city it calls home, Willie Mae's has reinvented itself quite a few times. It was originally a beauty salon, barbershop and bar, but the first two closed in the late 1970s. What remained was a scotch house known for its amazing Southern food.
Ms. Willie Mae, the owner, is the recipient of the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award. Her fried chicken has also been called the "best in America." The restaurant's menu is simple. Try the fried chicken (of course) accompanied by your side of butter beans, fried okra or candied yams. Bread pudding is the only dessert available, but let's be honest, that's the dessert you'd want to pick anyway.
What People Say About Willie Mae’s Scotch House
"First off, BEST mac and cheese I have EVER HAD IN MY LIFE (Screaming). Worth the wait, and it lives up to the hype. Definitely a MUST do when in NOLA. Food is AWESOME, and customer service is great. I ordered baked chicken with mac and cheese and cornbread. The baked chicken was nice and juicy, very flavorful.
"Come early and be prepared to wait a little. No alcohol served, but their ice tea is very refreshing." — Ultima M.
3. Charlene's Home Cooking
Year opened: 2010
Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina
Bottom line: Charlene and Mike Davis opened up this soul food restaurant in the middle of the economic recession. Though times were tough, they knew Ms. Charlene's family recipes were too good not to succeed, and they were right.
Charlene's Home Cooking feels like eating in someone's kitchen. There's no fanfare or social-media-ready backdrops, but you'll be greeted like family and served a real homecooked meal. A seasonal menu is written in chalk on a board, but rest assured, there's nothing on it that's not mouthwatering.
What People Say About Charlene's Home Cooking
"This is a family-owned and -operated restaurant. The food reminds you of Sunday dinner at Grandma's, and the owner is so down-to-earth and friendly. She introduced me to her entire family. She runs the establishment with her husband, daughters and a host of extended family — even the great-grandkids were there.
"The food was hot and tasty. The cabbage and yams were some of the best I have had. The decor is not five-star, but the love she puts into the food definitely is. She has some beautiful flowers and even gave me some tips about caring for mine. Definitely recommend this place!" — Dorothy H.
2. Sylvia's Restaurant
Year opened: 1962
Location: New York, New York
Bottom line: Another historic restaurant that has never let fame go to its head, Sylvia's is a Harlem institution. The owner, Ms. Sylvia Woods, was called the "Queen of Soul Food," a crown she wore until her death in 2012.
But the business she'd built was so strong that it continues to get crowds looking for a taste of its world-famous barbecue ribs and peach cobbler. If you come later in the day, try one of the restaurant's signature cocktails. We especially recommend the Harlem blues.
What People Say About Sylvia's Restaurant
"Amazing haven't even finished my food, and I can already tell it's the best food I've had in a long time. I downloaded Yelp just to say how good it is; this will definitely be my first stop in New York for future visits — just AMAZING, way better than I expected." — Kianna L.
1. The Four Way Restaurant
Year opened: 1946
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Bottom line: Originally called The Four Way Grill, this soul food place is a historic treasure of Memphis. When it opened, the city didn't have many places where Black diners could enjoy a meal in peace. During the Civil Rights Movement, leaders like Martin Luther King and Jesse Jackson (as well as the one and only Aretha Franklin) met up here.
As one of the oldest Black-owned businesses in the U.S., The Four Way continues to be a haven for the city's Black population, serving up food so good that it definitely nourishes the soul.
What People Say About the Four Way Restaurant
"Little history about The Four Way Soul Food Restaurant: It has been in Memphis for over 75 years and was often the restaurant of choice for activists, leaders and Black musicians! Making them not only a prime example of how good the food is here but a testament to the rich history that lives all over this city!
"When I visited recently, I was greeted by smiling faces and great customer service. I got the catfish with two sides, and when I tell y'all that the fish was good, I mean it! That catfish was the Beyoncé of the meal and made me wish I lived closer so that I could stop by weekly! It didn't take me long to get my to-go order either, but I do suggest getting there early if you have a set time for lunch because after I ordered the crowd came!" — Trenika M.