By Chief Emanuel Washington….
This is Part One of a Five Part Soul Food and Soul Food Restaurant educational series. Throughout, we will investigate the what, when, where, why and how we arrived at this intersection in history. Soul Food Restaurants in America are going out of business at an alarming rate.
I estimate that over the past decade, approximately one in four of all Soul Food restaurants in America have closed their doors permanently. This is a conservative estimate. How many Soul Food Restaurants have closed in your city in the last decade? Have you noticed? Can you name them? Do you wonder why? Do you know why? How does it affect you? How does it affect your family? How does this bulletin impact American History?
Soul Food restaurants are in critical condition! The Family tree of America stands at the Crossroads of History. Which way will it turn? Will it follow the race car of capitalism and go to the left of fact? Will it turn right and plow the fields of faith? Will it falter from lack of interest and awareness, or will it stay on the righteous path of histories’ intention? Will the vitamins of American History nourish the soul of America or will a significant component of American History and Culture become lost in the hypnotism of everyday life? Will Soul Food and Soul Food restaurants withstand the test of time, or will it be our last will and testament to the prayers, sacrifices, contributions, and creative genius of an entire culture? I ask you these questions!
Soul Food is in a lonely place with history right now. History and culture are critical to the encyclopedia of mankind. They keep score and record vital statistics of life itself. Furthermore, history chronicles man’s journey through time. It tells us where we came from, where we’ve been, it helps us to hopefully coexist better today than yesterday, and it forecasts that which is to come. Soul Food is in critical condition. It is essential that we take this message seriously. Time is of the essence. Soul Food Restaurant Closures: Below is a ‘partial list’ of Soul Food Restaurant closures in select Cities across America.
Chicago, IL: Edna’s, a historic soul food restaurant closes its doors after 44 years in business. One of the oldest Soul Food Restaurants in America, Army & Lou’s Soul Food Restaurant, has closed its doors after 66 years in business.
Harlem, NY: More than 10 Soul Food restaurants have closed in Harlem over the past decade. Here are just a few: Copelands on 145th Street closed after 50 years in business, Charles’ Southern Kitchen and Louis’s Family Restaurant on Lennox and 125th; Amy Ruth’s on West 116th Street, home of the chicken and waffles concept filed for bankruptcy last year; however, it remains open. Los Angeles, CA: Reign, owned by Keyshawn Johnson and G. Garvin. In Beverly Hills: Georgia on Melrose (Owner: Former L.A. Laker Norm Nixon); Jean P’s Soul Food on Figueroa; Ma Pinkies, San Mateo; Shark Bar on La Cienega; House of Soul Food. Santa Clara: Babe’s & Ricky’s Inn on Leimert; M & M Soul Food Lakewood, CA; Powell’s Soul Food Cafe, San Francisco; Nellie’s Soul Food on Broadway; and Gramtee’s on Stanford in Oakland, CA.
Boston, MA: Pink Teacup, Soul Food Restaurant, closing after a Half Century! West Village, opened in 1957. Chef Lee’s Famous Soul Food on Morton St.; Bob’s Southern Bistro on Columbus; Poppa B’s on Blue Hill in Dorchester, Mrs. Jones on Dorchester, in Dorchester, Stork Club on Northhampton St. Boston; Magnolia’s in Cambridge, MA; Big Lou Rib House on Squireroad, Revere, MA; Jake’s Boss Barbeque on Washington, Jamaica Plain, MA; Jakes Dixie Roadhouse on Moody, Waltham, MA; Linwood Bar & Grill on Kilmarnock, Boston; and Vegan Soul Food on Washington Street, Boston, MA.
Las Vegas, NV: Big Mama’s Rib Shack on Bonanza, Las Vegas; Soul 2 Soul Bistro on Rainbow Blvd; Ella Em’s on Craig Road, North Vegas; and M & M Soul Food Cafe on Charleston.
Albuquerque, NM: A Taste of Soul on Mateo and Almost Gourmet Soul Food on San Pedro, NE.
Austin, TX: Dot’s Place (Pflugerville)
New Castle, DE: Joe’s Soul Food Fish Market on Dupont.
Oklahoma City, OK: Brown Suga Cafe on NW 122nd St.
Des Moines, IA: Something Good on Sixth and Mom and Son’s on True Parkway.
Rock Hill, SC: DJ’s Soul Food on Herlong
Dallas, TX: Po Bill’s Cafe, on Commerce St.
Houston, TX: Kitchen Soul Food on Richmond and the Family Cafe on Blodgett.
Minneapolis, MN: Favor Cafe on Lake St.
Saint Louis, MO: Brown Suga’s on New Halls Ferry.
St. Petersburg, FL: Shirley’s Soul Food, a St Petersburg icon closed after nearly 30 years in business.
So, why are so many Soul Food restaurants going out of business? We will answer this question and many others as we move deeper into the series. Stay tuned….
Part 2 of this series provides an indepth analysis of the dynamics and contributing factors in the wake of the current state of Soul Food restaurants.
What will be the takeaways for future generations when history’s bell tolls? Will we go down in history as the home of the brave, land of the free minus identity and culture or will history record this moment as an international example of valor, resilience, perseverance, and unparallel determination?
Soul Food is a significant component of American History and Culture. It is vital that we preserve and protect it.
Where do you stand?
Chef Emanuel is a prominent soul food critic. Recently relocated from Chicago, Il, he was formerly the Executive Chef and Food Service Director at The Department of Defense Analysis. He isalso the founder and owner of a culinary school in South Florida as well as a Food Historian. He has studied American Food History and the ‘Soul Food’ discipline for decades. For more information about Chef Emanuel, visit his website at http://chefemanuel.com.