The Absolute Best Soul Food Restaurants In The US

Soul food is one of the most iconic types of American cuisine. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, soul food arose out of a mixture of innovation and necessity: It was initially created by African Americans in rural parts of the American South who came up with inventive ways to work with limited ingredients. 

Many of soul food's most beloved dishes, like chicken and waffles, evolved from the skill and ingenuity of these cooks. Today, soul food is a recognized and beloved cuisine in the United States. Although soul food restaurants can be found in every corner of the country, some are a cut above the rest (via Thrillist). 

Many incredible soul food restaurants respect classic dishes while still putting their unique spin on them. Soul food restaurants tend to offer a variety of delicious dishes such as fall-off-the-bone ribs, fried catfish, fried green tomatoes, and sweet potato pie.

Willie Mae's Scotch House - New Orleans

Willie Mae's Scotch House in New Orleans is definitely one of the stops where you can find the best fried chicken you'll find in the South. It's certainly the best fried chicken you'll find in Louisiana. This soul food paradise is a legend, serving up tasty treats like decadent, juicy fried chicken and mouthwatering sides like fried okra, creamy mashed potatoes, and homemade mac and cheese (via Willie Mae's Scotch House). 

Reviews on Yelp suggest that the fried chicken is primarily what draws customers to this restaurant; however, Willie Mae's also offers a seafood platter and a grilled shrimp salad. According to Bon Appétit, customers often have to wait in line to taste this legendary cooking. Willie Mae's Scotch House received the James Beard Foundation's American Classic award in 2005. So, if you love soul food or are simply looking to snack on some of the most incredible fried chicken you've ever had in your life, Willie Mae's Scotch House is the place to go.

Dulan's Soul Food Kitchen - Los Angeles

Dulan's Soul Food Kitchen has two locations in California; one in Inglewood and one in Los Angeles. The restaurant is a bit of a pilgrimage site for people who love smothered chicken (via Spectrum News 1). Dulan's Soul Food Kitchen restaurant is famous for its generous portions of authentic soul food (via Yelp). 

Adolf Dulan, the business owner and self-proclaimed "King of Soul Food" has been serving delicious food for nearly half a century. Over time, Dulan has been able to perfect his craft and hone home-kitchen recipes like baked chicken with spice and tender oxtail in a flavorful broth (via Dulan's Soul Food Kitchen).

The smothered chicken really shines, though, and is the reason why people drive in from all over the state to sample it. The dish features tender, pan-fried juicy chicken, plenty of onions, and a hearty gravy; it's the ultimate comfort food dish and is the perfect combo of meaty, rich, salty, and savory flavors.

Florida Avenue Grill - Washington, D.C.

Florida Avenue Grill is a wonderful Washington, D.C., restaurant that offers all-day breakfast. Hungry visitors can sink their teeth into perfectly cooked eggs, bacon, sausage, or even scrapple. If you're unfamiliar with scrapple, it's worth familiarizing yourself with this delicacy. 

Scrapple is a mix of pork snouts, pork skins, pork hearts, pork livers, pork tongues, and cornmeal all combined together with spices (via Eater). It's a kind of breakfast meat and is extremely tasty. According to HuffPost, Andrew Zimmern, the host of "Bizarre Foods," visited the Florida Avenue Grill to try the scrapple and was highly impressed. 

If you're not in the mood for scrapple, you can always opt for salmon cake or piping hot french toast with plenty of sugar and cinnamon. The lunch and dinner specials at Florida Avenue Grill are pretty great, too, including thick fried pork chops, catfish, fried chicken, and pig's feet.

Benne on Eagle - Asheville, North Carolina

Benne on Eagle in Asheville, North Carolina, serves upscale soul food with an elegant twist. Additionally, the menu at this spot has unique cocktails on offer that make this restaurant the best date night spot in the city. The restaurant offers several delicious dinner options such as crispy fried green tomatoes with rich roasted mushrooms, candied lemon, and tart jackfruit. 

The Fufu Gnudi and Maafe Sauce is served with pickled okra, groundnuts, and maitake mushrooms and offers a refreshing take on traditional African flavors. Conventional soul food faves such as trout and shrimp are also available. If you like cocktails, you're going to want to wash down your meal with one of Benne on Eagle's finest: You can choose between classic and new drinks. 

According to Condé Nast Traveller, Benne On Eagle's particular charm stems from its approach to food. The menu is a celebration of soul food and pays homage to the influence of Appalachian and African cuisines on food in North Carolina. As such, diners can enjoy plenty of classic flavors prepared in compelling and exciting ways.

Esther's Cajun Café & Soulfood - Houston

Travel down to the Lone Star State, and you'll find Esther's Cajun Café & Soulfood, a friendly, fun place serving giant portions of all your soul food faves. Expect to find towering portions of candied yams, oxtails, and tons of flavorful cornbread. Everything tastes authentic and delicious, from the thick gravy and rice to the Cajun fried chicken. 

According to its website, the café is based on a legacy of Cajun cooking and family recipes fine-tuned and honed to meet today's palates and needs. As a result, everything is fresh, flavorful, and authentic, including rich and hearty mustard greens, and oxtails. The Cajun flair in dishes like Esther's mouthwatering gumbo is particularly exciting. 

According to Eater, Esther's Cajun Café & Soulfood recently opened another location to give their chefs additional room to prepare even more scrumptious menu items. Now, you can sample lamb chops and turkey necks in addition to its original menu of soul food and Cajun classics.

His Place Eatery - Indianapolis

His Place Eatery in Indianapolis, Indiana, serves two comfort-food classics; barbecue and soul food. It's the spot to go for honest, down-home cooking that truly warms the heart (via Yelp). All the dishes at this eatery have plenty of soul food vibes and the underlying, familiar flavor notes will undoubtedly leave you satisfied. 

The menu has several delicious options and the Southern fried chicken is particularly popular among customers: It's juicy inside, crunchy, and piping hot outside, precisely in the way that a great fried chicken should be. If you're in the mood for something a little more decadent, you can take your fried chicken to the next level by having it smothered in gravy and onions. Smothered pork chops are on offer as well. 

The cat is definitely out of the bag regarding how great His Place Eatery is: According to WRTV Indianapolis, the restaurant is always busy and mealtimes can get hectic with hungry customers who know where to get the good stuff. On Sundays, it isn't unusual to see a line form outside the door of His Place Eatery. 

Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles - Various locations

Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles serves fantastic soul food and has locations in Arizona, Nevada, and Texas. The food at Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles is just downright delicious; the menu offers several variations on classic combinations such as chicken and waffles. 

Baby Ray is one of the best iterations of the restaurant's best iterations of the classic chicken-and-waffle combo: The dish has three pieces of chicken, fluffy waffles, tons of homemade gravy, and onions. If you're extra hungry, you can order the KK's which has waffles, chicken, grits, and eggs. The cheekily-named Betty's Boob serves up one chicken breast with a tasty combination while Tre-Tre's combines two expertly prepared legs with a waffle.

If chicken and waffles aren't for you, there's also Lil Sis' Egg White Omelet with melt-in-your-mouth mushrooms and spinach topped with tomatoes and scallions. As owner Larry "Lo-Lo" White told Arizona PBS, the primary objective at Lo-Lo's Chicken and Waffles is to infuse the fried chicken with as much love as possible and help everyone feel wanted and comfortable the second that they walk through the door.

Heard Dat Kitchen - New Orleans

Heard Dat Kitchen in the heart of New Orleans serves a tasty spin on soul food by offering reimagined dishes that have all of the classic soul flavors and are spruced up with a fresh and fun presentation. Heard Dat Kitchen's owner, Jeffery Heard Jr. believes in building good memories and delicious food and he does just that by serving up comfort food. The menu offers several reasonably priced meal options; many are served with fries, bacon, ranch dressing, and perfectly spiced red beans and rice.

The shrimp and grits are served with delicious corn and the Swamp Fries are a delightful combination of crispy fries and two types of sauces. The Superdome is one of the joint's top treasures and consists of fish topped with mashed potatoes, corn, onion rings, and decadent lobster sauce. The Superdome is the restaurant's signature dish and is a real fan favorite (via Tripadvisor). According to Nola.com, Jeffery Heard Jr. dreams up delightful specials to feature on his menu every morning after returning from his daily grocery runs. 

Croaker's Spot - Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia

Croaker's Spot is an exciting and historic restaurant with multiple locations in Virginia. According to the restaurant's website, the restaurant is named after its founder who grew up in "Little Africa," or Richmond's Jackson Ward neighborhood. The spot was established during the Harlem Renaissance.

Many of Croaker Spot's first patrons were entrepreneurs, artists, and musicians, and they appreciated the familiar food and cosmopolitan vibe of Croaker's Spot. Although it's an excellent soul food joint, it's slightly off the tourist map, so you can rest assured that you're getting the authentic local experience. Croaker's Spot was known not just for the food but also for the vibe and experience it offered its patrons. 

The simplest items on the Croaker's Spot menu are the best and include soul wedges and buffalo shrimp. Croaker's Spot also serves top-notch seafood like flaky crab cakes, steamed mussels, and savory fried oysters served with fragrant dips and sauces. The portions are generous, and it's always a good idea to order several different dishes and share them around the table if you're dining in a group; that way, you can sample a little something of everything.

Henry's Soul Cafe - Washington, D.C.

Henry's Soul Cafe, located in Washington, D.C., is a great place to snack on delicious menu items such as barbecue pork smothered or sweet potato waffles and chicken wings with mumbo sauce. Adventurous diners can also find amazing culinary treats like chitterlings and pig's feet at this restaurant. Still, the real surprise comes after the savory meal is over. One of the cardinal rules of enjoying soul food is to always save some room for dessert, and that's triply true at this iconic joint.

Although you can get rich banana pudding and flavorful strawberry soul cake at Henry's Soul Cafe, it's almost criminal to leave without trying its world-famous sweet potato pie. According to People Magazine, it's the best pie in D.C. This delicious dessert is a wildly popular item that fuses the rich, sweet flavor of sweet potatoes with warm spices and a delicious flaky crust.

Pearl's Place Restaurant - Chicago

Chicago's Pearl's Place Restaurant is the ideal Windy City spot for soul food served with a smile. The menu offers Cajun treats in addition to faves like shrimp and cheesy grits, smoked ham hock dinners, and fall-off-the-bone short ribs. The shrimp po'boy at Pearl's Place Restaurant is served hot on crunchy French bread. 

Although its lunch and dinner dishes are fabulous, many people pop into Pearl's Place to try its all-day breakfast. Eggs, custom omelets, and waffles are offered with a variety of options for sides such as rice, grits, meats, sausages, salmon croquettes, and chicken wings.

Although you'll find breakfast classics like omelets on the menu, catfish, pork chops, and waffles topped with anything from chicken to pecans and strawberry topping are also available. According to Soul of America, visiting Pearl's Place Restaurant for Sunday Brunch is a must-do experience in Chicago. Fruit cobblers, red velvet cake, and bread pudding are also highly recommended. 

Sweetie Pie's Upper Crust - St. Louis

If you watch "Welcome to Sweetie Pie's" you might be familiar with Sweetie Pie's Upper Crust, a family-operated soul restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri (via TV Guide). The show spotlighted Robbie Montgomery and her delicious quest to spotlight Sweetie Pie's cuisine in a successful manner. That's a pretty noble endeavor because Sweetie Pie's Upper Crust is the real deal. You'll find some pretty impressive spins on classic dishes here, including beautifully fried and moist chicken and huge portions of creamy mac and cheese (via Tripadvisor). 

Even the veggies are delicious at Sweetie Pie's Upper Crust. Its corn is delicate, sweet, and sinfully good, and the cornbread is fresh and flavorful; plus, most of the portions are quite generous and can be shared if so desired. Make sure you leave room for dessert as the iconic peach cobbler is like a little slice of summer on a plate.

Sylvia's - New York City

While many of our top soul food picks are in the American South, there are a few notable ones in the Northern U.S. too, like Sylvia's in New York City. Sylvia's is a Harlem institution that serves incredible cuisine under the instruction of Sylvia Woods. Not only has Sylvia's charmed foodies, soul food lovers, and celebs in Harlem since 1962, but the restaurant has also launched a product line of condiments and food items that you can use to create delicious food in the comfort of your own home. 

But, even if you can whip up a mean fried catfish, you might want to still stop by the restaurant. According to The Infatuation, big names like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have dined at Sylvia's. Insider reports that pop culture icons like Chris Rock and Beyoncé have dined there. The mac and cheese, yams, and cornbread are legendary. Everything is tasty at Slyvia's, but the ribs are particularly divine, with a downright dreamy fall-off-the-bone consistency.

Gourmet Soul Restaurant - St. Louis

The Gourmet Soul Restaurant in Saint Louis, Missouri, is an excellent place to get your comfort food fix and enjoy friendly service in a relaxed and welcoming environment. The menu lists several incredible dishes such as the fried fish is delicious and arrives perfectly cooked and encrusted in a tantalizing and crisp breading (via Gourmet Soul Restaurant). The chicken wings are good too, full of flavorful spice and a nice dash of Old Bay Seasoning. 

If you're looking for the best of both worlds, check out the fish and chicken combination meal with fries. The Austin "Horseshoe," with chicken breast, sweet & spicy sauce, and cheese is delicious too. The sides at Gourmet Soul Restaurant and Catering are traditional soul food favorites; customers can choose from a selection of intensely flavored collard greens in a rich turkey broth, macaroni and cheese, and light, delicious whipped potatoes. Gourmet Soul Restaurant and Catering not only serves up excellent food but also supports the local community through various social outreach projects (via National Black Guide).

Bully's Restaurant - Jackson, Mississippi

Head on down to Jackson, Mississippi, for excellent, unpretentious, and tasty authentic soul food: Bully's Restaurant offers delicious, homestyle cooking in a homely and welcoming atmosphere (via Tripadvisor). The restaurant began as a snack shop that sold sandwiches to local workers. This venture then transitioned into a restaurant that served hot meals (via Clarion Ledger). 

Today, this spot draws customers in with incredible food in an old-style setting with inviting staff members that make you feel like family. Two menu items that keep folks coming back to Bully's Restaurant are its fried chicken and rich, buttery greens and the cobbler. Okra, yams, cabbage, and fried green tomatoes are also available. Snack on seriously good soul food favorites like hearty and rich macaroni and cheese, turkey necks, and fried catfish. 

The beef tips and rice is a wonderfully hearty dish that hits all the right flavor notes and will fill you up properly. Bully's Restaurant's exceptional work in the kitchen hasn't gone unnoticed: The James Beard Foundation awarded the restaurant with an American Classic designation.