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America’s Best Soul Food Restaurants To Visit

Get your fix of soul food at these popular restaurants across the US.

If you’re looking for something flavorful and filling, there are plenty of American soul food restaurants you should try.

soul food dishes on table

While the term “Soul Food” came about in the 60s and 70s from key actors in the Civil Rights Movement, like Malcolm X, soul food is a cultural invention rooted in the struggles of slavery.

Using a combination of West African cooking techniques and an incredible ingenuity born from their strong will to live, enslaved peoples in the deep South cooked calorie-rich foods out of what slaveowners gave them.

Breading and frying meats and vegetables and using meat, bones, and fat to add flavor are two key techniques in ensuring that enslaved people could replenish the calories lost during a long day working the cotton and sugar fields.

Today, soul food is a beloved cuisine that most of us relate with Southern comfort food.

Most Popular Soul Food Restaurants in the US

Luckily, you don’t have to live in the south to delight in a delectable plate of fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, or other classic soul food dishes.

Soul Food restaurants in the US are a popular culinary trend nationwide, and you can find the best soul food restaurants in the US on the list below.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House

Established in 1957 in the Treme Lafite neighborhood of New Orleans, Willie Mae’s Scotch House began as a beauty salon, barbershop, and bar.

While the beauty salon and barbershop closed two decades later, Willie Mae’s Scotch House expanded to include an award-winning menu of incredible Louisiana and Mississippi home cooking menu. 

Owner and founder Ms. Willie Mae received a James Beard Foundation Award for her classic Southern American cooking, while Food Network and the Travel Channel deem Willie Mae’s fried chicken the best in America.

I had a fried chicken platter with a side of NOLA famous red beans and rice and a buttery, sweet, and a savory cornbread muffin.


Bully’s Restaurant

Located in Jackson, Mississippi, Bully’s Restaurant has been featured in Thrillist, Eater, USA Today, and Culture Trip as some of the best, most authentic Mississippi Delta-style soul food in the nation.

The exterior is an unassuming, hole-in-the-wall brick building with a homey, old-school southern dining room.

While they serve crowd pleasures like fried chicken, catfish, and fried green tomatoes, Bully’s also serves more obscure and adventurous delta classics.

Real soul food is about preservation and using every part of the animal so that nothing goes to waste.

Bully’s Restaurant continues this tradition with its offerings of oxtail, pig’s feet, and ham hocks, to name a few.

While this may put you off, they are all as flavorful, tender, and delicious as any mainstream meal, proving the artistry and creativity inherent in soul food.


Amy Ruth’s

Named for owner Carl S. Redding’s beloved grandmother, Amy Ruth’s is a friendly Southern soul food restaurant in New York’s famous Black neighborhood of Harlem.

Carl S. Redding and his cousins would spend the summers in Alabama helping their grandparents with household chores, which is where Redding learned from his grandmother Amy Ruth’s famous down-home cooking.

Today you can taste the authentic generations-old Alabama family recipes in a colorful, jazzy café.

The daily menu has specials, a whole list of breakfast waffles, omelets, and southern breakfast plates, and a lunch and dinner menu.

You’ll want to try the Rev. Thomas Johnson waffle with fried catfish for a perfect combination of sweet and savory. 


Florida Avenue Grill

Located on Washington DC’s Florida Avenue, Florida Avenue Grill self-proclaims to be the oldest Soul Food restaurant in the world.

Opened in 1944 by Lacy Williams and his wife Bertha, Florida Avenue Grill has become a Washington DC staple that has survived the 1968 riots, the crack epidemic of the 80s and 90s, and the neighborhood’s gentrification.

The Florida Grill offers the same tried and true menu that it’s had for over 70 years, featuring all-day breakfast and homestyle dinners.

Try the amazing smothered fried pork chops, lightly breaded and fried pork chops smothered in onion gravy with a side of candied yams, collard greens, and a cornbread muffin.


Sylvia’s

Appropriately located on Malcolm X Blvd. in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood, Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food Restaurant is a historic cultural haunt owned and operated by Sylvia Woods and her family since 1962.

Sylvia’s refined yet inviting dining space offers unique daily events like a world-famous gospel brunch on Sundays and live jazz, soul, and blues music on6 Wednesdays.

Their gospel brunch on Sundays is amazing, with delicious Southern and New York-inspired cocktails, like peachtree mimosas or their signature Waiting to Exhale cocktail that was featured in the New York Times.

You can soak it up with a heaping plate of eggs over easy, salmon croquettes, grits, and a buttermilk biscuit.


Alcenia’s

Located in the heart of downtown Memphis, Alcenia’s is a classic, family-friendly Soul Food eatery with citywide and national acclaim.

Alcenia’s very own Chef BJ competed on the popular Food Network show Chopped, while Oprah Magazine, The Travel Channel, and NBC have praised Alcenia’s as the best Southern cooking in Tennessee.

Their sensational sweet potato cobbler was a centerpiece dish in Food Network’s show The Best Thing I Ever Ate.

Alcenia’s also accommodates health-conscious and vegetarian diets, although the best platters of down-home southern cooking are meant to put some meat on your bones.

Their fried green tomatoes and biscuits are the most decadent I’ve tried.


Mikki’s Soulfood Cafe

Mikki’s Soul Food Café is a family-owned and budget-friendly Southern comfort café in Houston, Texas.

They have a cocktail bar and welcoming service for a dine-in or dinner, while their daily lunch specials and take-out business makes them especially popular for midday meals.

Weekday specials are Texas-sized plates of the main course, two sides, and a large slice of cornbread.

They also have other classic American comfort foods like fettuccini Alfredo and meatloaf.

I recommend heading there on Fridays and Saturdays to sample their seafood gumbo with a side of black-eyed peas and Cajun corn. 


Busy Bee Cafe

Located in Atlanta, Georgia, in Vine City, Busy Bee Café opened in 1947 when talented, self-taught southern Chef Lucy Jackson opened a humble, welcoming eatery for the surrounding neighborhood to enjoy a home-cooked meal.

Busy Bee Café has since gone on to receive national acclaim and a James Beard Award for America’s Classics.

The quaint storefront retains its late 40s to early 50s appeal in a red brick diner space with an old-school soda fountain.

Their signature dish is their brined and breaded fried chicken, which you can get as a plate, over rice, or on Belgian waffles.

I also loved their slow-cooked ham hocks with collard greens, carrot souffle, and a yeasty dinner roll.


Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place

Featured in Food Network, Thrillist, and The Daily Meal, Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place is Indianapolis’ favorite southern comfort diner.

Opened over 20 years ago by Ms. Jessie, who later ran it with the help of her daughter Nell, Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place continues to offer welcoming, scratch-made meals under the leadership of Isaac and Cynthia Wilson.

You can still get Ms. Jessie’s favorite family recipes along with an expanded menu of more Southern dishes from the Wilson family’s upbringing.

You can find classic platters alongside more contemporary offerings like meatloaf sandwiches and roast beef Manhattans.

They also serve an individual Thanksgiving meal year-round, with mashed potatoes, gravy, turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls. 


This Is It

Another beloved Houston haunt, This Is It, opened in the Third Ward in 1959 and has been proudly black-owned and operated for over 70 years.

Featured in the Houston Chronicle, Texas Monthly, This Is It has been a family business in its fourth generation of ownership with current owner Craig Joseph upholding his grandparent’s principles and family recipes as he, in turn, passes the torch to his daughters and sons.

Their mac and cheese won Houston’s diners choice award for Best Mac and Cheese in Houston.

They also have some Texas famous sides like pinto beans and black-eyed peas. Their fried fish and chicken and dumplings were two comforting dishes executed to perfection.


Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room

Originating as a 40s boarding house kitchen owned and operated by Ms. Sema Wilkes, Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room still resides in its original country home inn in one of the most charming Southern cities in the US, Savannah, Georgia.

Today, Mrs. Wilkes granddaughter Marcia Thompson runs the business.

The classic country chic dining space with exposed brick walls and dainty white table clothes is a quintessential Savannah dining experience.

The menu at Mrs. Wilkes relies on local farmers and seasonal availability.

Dishes are served in shareable, family-style portions to be passed around the table in historic boardinghouse fashion.


Most Popular Soul Food Restaurants in the US

  1. Willie Mae’s Scotch House
  2. Bully’s Restaurant
  3. Amy Ruth’s 
  4. Florida Avenue Grill
  5. Sylvia’s
  6. Alcenia’s
  7. Mikki’s Soufood Cafe
  8. Busy Bee Cafe
  9. Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place
  10. This Is It
  11. Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room

Final Thoughts

Soul Food was born in the slave-owning South and has since become a proud culinary tradition with down-home kitchens in every state.

Whether you’re in the heart of the deep South or the concrete jungles of New York City, you can still experience the most authentic Soul Food passed down from generations of Southern cooks. 

My list of the best Soul Food Restaurants in the U.S. features decades-old diners, eateries, and cafes that will make you feel at home while enjoying a comforting plate of Southern specialties.

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93 Comments

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  1. Southern Kitchen on S. 6th ave Tacoma,Wa should be on that list
    Amazing food from amazing people

  2. Lena’s and Ant Bumpy’s eatery in the heart of downtown Wilmington delaware one of the best soul food restaurants available, specializing in her fried fish, Sweet potatoes are the very best, her grandmother recipe , macaroni and cheese is a winner, string beans and seasoned collard greens make you wanna call your family and tell them you love them her seasoned just right potato salad that most places are scared to make will keep you coming for more, when you put all this good tasting food in your mouth, Tongues palate Undisputedly let you know you’ve just tasted the the best soul food ever on one plate. Our menu has everything you need today and tonight ranging from the best soul food to our very own bad boy subs and our must taste flavor delicious teas. See you all soon at Lena’s and Ant’Bumpy’s eatery 801 north shipley streets downtown Wilmington delaware and sure to put my restaurant in the top 10 best soul food spots around. Come check us out yourself. Thank you Ms Lena Grayson

  3. Hello.
    Are there any good soul food restaurants in Bronx New York? I’ve been looking for one or two or three but haven’t found one
    Please can you help?
    Thank you
    D. Story

      • Please–Aunt Kizzie’s Back Porch was the world standard and had more acclaim than Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles in their original form. Dulan’s has taken up where Aunt Kizzie’s left off–that mediocre cuisine has been the first stop for several presidents and heads of state–Dulan’s is so beloved, they cater for whole corporations feeding thousands of people at a time and they stay booked out for 6 months.

    • L.A. has SEVERAL SOUL FOOD RESTAURANTS! The WATTS COFFEE HOUSE HAS DELICIOUS BREAKFAST OFFERINGS! DULANS SOUL FOOD HAS SEVERAL LOCATIONS, INCLUDING INGLEWOOD NEAR SO-FI STADIUM. too many more to list! We eat well in L.A.

  4. Love your article My husband and I have only been to Sylvia’s in Harlem. It was to die for We would love to get a chance to go to the others in our near upcoming retirement years so thanks for the list.

  5. What happened to Los Angeles?
    We have Marilyn’s Soul food, Dulan’s, M&M’s
    and a host of other’s I can’t think of at the moment.

      • L.A. has SEVERAL SOUL FOOD RESTAURANTS! The WATTS COFFEE HOUSE HAS DELICIOUS BREAKFAST OFFERINGS! DULANS SOUL FOOD HAS SEVERAL LOCATIONS, INCLUDING INGLEWOOD NEAR SO-FI STADIUM. too many more to list! We eat well in L.A.

  6. I think Mississippi Belle should be on the list of one of the Best Soul food restaurants in USA. They menu consists of hearty helpings of food. Fried catfish, meatloaf, ribs, pork chops, fried chicken ,baked chicken, mac n cheese, greens, sweet potatoes ,fried potatoes & onions. I love their small fried cornbread patties, with a side of sliced tomatoes& onions.

  7. Hi Mr. Rocco, you need to add one more soul food restaurant to your list. Come to Chicago and check out Good life soul food cafe. Located in Chicago on the south side 11114 S Halsted. Their collar green are to die for, baked chicken Oooo and the meatloaf oh my god can’t get my son to eat my meatloaf. But you should this restaurant to your list come check them out. Doing the pandemic this placed served a lot of people god blessed them

  8. One of the best in South Florida, located in Miami Dade County is a little place by the name of “Arlene’s . Been eating there for more than 15 years. Servings are awesome, and the food is to die for.

  9. Thank you for the plethora of soul food dining. I hope the covid pandemic did not put anyone out of business. If ever i travel to any of these locations , looking forward to eating in. Godspeed.

  10. If you really like soul food I suggest you try Corinne’s in Camden New Jersey it’s fantastic her food is really really good

  11. There are a number of these soul food restaurants that I have visited as well.
    Between the north and south of the U.S., they all tend to differ in there preparation of “soul food”. I am from the south (Houston Tx) … and I personally believe that Texas soul food is the best.
    Miss, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas all have there respective “soul food” restaurants, and they are wonderful.
    Sylvia’s in N.Y., and the on that was located in Atlanta are GREAT!

    But, … I invite everyone to, “come on to Texas”. And try eating a PLATTER of soul food, like no other!

  12. Fixins Soul Food Kitchen located in Sacramento has food to die for. I like the fried. Chicken and the gumbo. If you go on the weekend. Be prepared for an hour wait that is very much worth it!!!

  13. My wife and I ate Willie Mae’s Scotch house food was excellent. Will keep the list for further travels thank you so much for the article.

  14. Let’s not forget Richmond Virginia area. We have many soul food restaurants here in the city. But the one that stands out the most. Tees kitchen. With her cheesy Mac and cheese, cabbage seasoned to perfection. I never had collards taste like they were cooked with meat but to find out none of her vegetables are seasoned with meat ohhhh so delicious. Fried fish and chicken cooked perfectly. Oh I could go on and on so good.

  15. I agree that Sylvia”s & Amy Ruth are awesome – however, not including DULAN’S on Crenshaw – selected by both the LA Rams & the City of LA as a fav and a Super Bowl 2022 go to favorite ; and Adolf DULAN King of Soul Food on LaCienaga, is a gross oversight on your part. 🤨 Both have nearly 30 years in the area, and we’re spin offs to Aunt Kizzy’s Back Porch, which was started in the 70s. Each represents some of the finest in Oklahoma Soul Family recipes- which were handed down thru family tradition from Zady DULAN, the DULAN Family Matriarch. Please be careful when you hold yourself out as an expert – make sure you indicate that it’s “imo” – IJS – Stay Blessed – Gloria DULAN-Wilson 🥰

  16. Yeah baby that’s 2 for htown Mikkis is the bomb and
    Our legendary THIS IS IT featured in Jason’s Lyric🍖🥩

  17. Try aunt bills in Katy Texas the greatest I think it’s on morton ranch Rd. It’s elegant has a d.j. on the weekends and the food is wonderful u can evan choose from red velvet waffle or regular with fried chicken wings. y’all come on over to aunt bills.

    • Not to put the restaurant down or anything but the food isn’t all that..I was looking for some good old southern cooking and it didn’t pass the test for me…being in the Katy area myself in Cinco Ranch…good luck in finding True Soul Food

  18. You have to try kelseys in Atlantic city New jersey the best soul food they also have an awesom brunch. Its the only Black owned resturant in Atlantic city

  19. Shantell’s in Sandford
    Sanford, Florida 32771
    Please come next time you’re in Central Florida, Sanford is located on the east side of Orlando between Daytona Beach. Shantell’s has been around for a little over 10 years. Started by a mother of 10 children. 5 years after my divorce….

  20. Potters House in Jacksonville Florida
    Fixins in Downtown Los Angeles are excellent soul food restaurants.

  21. WORLD FAMOUS NUNU”S SWEET SOULFOOD in FT. PIER E, FLORIDA. FACEBOOK PAGE Patricia Mcneair, Instagram World Famous Nunus Sweet Soulfood.

  22. KELSEYS in Atlantic City AWESOME and live jazz on the weekends. Long wait but worth every minute ❤️❤️❤️❤️ honorable mention GRANNYS Baltimore Maryland ❤️❤️❤️🙌🏾🙌🏾

    • There’s Sweetie Pies. Cathy’s Kitchen in Ferguson, MO, Gourmet Soul, Diner’s Delight. The Choice, Mother’s Fish (on Grand), Creole with a splash of Soul, Mom’s (on Delmar).

  23. Billy’s in Jackson is great. And I tried Kountry Kitchen in Indy. Both wondersful. I will miss Dandgure’s Southern Classic in Nashville closing for good on June 30. The best greens, candied yams, and mac & cheese to die for. The best soul food restaurant I had in Los Angeles was a place with the word Home in the name, on Avalon somewhere near 80th. Yes, better than the others. Down home Southern cooking.

  24. There’s also one in Cleveland Ohio. Hot Sauce Williams. It brings the flavor with the soul. It was featured on food network tripple D.

  25. The Bottomline in Clinton MD has the best fried chicken and fried pork chops. Greens are to die for.

  26. Mabel’s Barbeque in West Chester, PA serves some of the most incredible southern dishes you’ll ever enjoy. Catfish, fried chicken, brisket, cornbread, collard greens, sweet potato pie,… just a name a few. Located minutes from Philadelphia, it is definitely worth your wild to visit and partake in the best southern cooking in the U.S.

  27. Georgia has some of the best soul food ever.
    Moe’s soulfood in Lawrenceville GA is my all time favorite.

  28. Tennessee has the best soul food in the nation. Swett’s, Loveless Cafe, Pucketts, Tupelo Honey, just to name a few. Come on down honeys! We’ll feed y’all!

  29. Werts in Charlotte, NC, should be considered. Great Low Country dishes and their collard green egg rolls and cornbread are fabulous.

  30. SO if you are close to Tampa, FL, you must go NE to Dade City (home to the Kumquat Festival, where it is the official fruit for pies, ice cream, etc.) located in Pasco County. There, tucked off Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd, is a Place called Steph’s Soul Food. Absolutely the best soul food for the $. Of course the meat specialties are Fried Catfish, baked fish, seafood plates, stewed meat, ribs, and of course, fried chicken. But Mr. Harold’s specialty is oxtail. Plus certain days, certain specials. The mac’s cheese is by scratch like my grandmother used to make, SP casseroles, fried okra(green beans, green tomatoes), scrumptious squash casserole and broccoli-rice casseroles, greens, smashed potatoes and gravy, and my favorite, cabbage.Breads include cornbread, yeast rolls, and my favorite, fried hushpuppies. AND THE DESSERTS! SO CHECK OUT MS. STEPH’S (& MR. HAROLD’S) PLACE. IT IS WHAT IT IS….GOOD!

  31. Southern soul bowl is a food truck that has some greens that will make you come back just for it and fried ribs that fall off the bone check it out if you in Austin thx

  32. Too bad Los Angeles and Chicago. I would have thought with black migration you two cities would each have at least one soul eatery that made the top list. O well, I still love you and I know what you guys can do.

  33. It’s obvious you are missing a lot of premium restaurants on this list! Las Vegas, NV has the Nationally Known #1 Soul Food restaurant GRITZ CAFE! Seems you have a lot more traveling and tasting to do! Hopefully, you’ll come and experience the whole Soul Food experience at Gritz Cafe! 1911 Stella Lake St, Las Vegas, NV 89106!

  34. I live in the Bronx, so I’ll tell you that good soul food does not exist in this borough. Just cross the bridge into Manhattan and make your way to Melba’s!

    • Big Mike’s Soul Food in Myrtle Beach SC should have been on this list as well, you need to come see an taste for yourself.

  35. Erma Jean’s in Olivehurst,Ca is not on the list of soul food spots,ther just as good as any of the other soul food Restaurants…..Bigjock

  36. Sactown area Erma Jean’s soul food is top in the sacramento area in Olivehurst,Ca,.about 25 to30 minutes away is worth the drive.

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Written by Rocco Smith

Rocco is a recent graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor’s in Editing, Writing, and Media. With seven years’ experience in the restaurant industry as a cook, server, bartender, and more, he is deeply passionate about intertwining his fondness for food with his love of language.