‘Critical Condition’ Soul Food Restaurants at the Crossroads! The Series: Part 1

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. Together, we will unearth, examine and formulate prudent strategies and articulate practicable solutions moving forward.

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. By all counts this is a conservative estimate. How many Soul Food Restaurants have closed in your city in the last decade? Name them. Why? How does this bulletin affect your family and impact American History?

Soul Food restaurants are in critical condition! They are under attack from the left, the right and from the confounded middle. The Family tree of America stands at the Crossroads of History.  Which way will it turn?  Will it follow the street car of capitalism and go left of fact or will it turn right and plow the fields of faith and truth? Will we falter from a 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 life’s ominous routine? 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?  These are the pressing questions of a conscience today!

Soul Food is in a lonely place with World History. The latent commercial birth of the term ‘southern food’ threatens factual American History. “History and culture are critical to the encyclopedia of mankind for they keep score and record vital statistics of life itself.” “History chronicles man’s journey through time. It tells us where we came from, where we’ve been, it helps us to hopefully co-exist better today than yesterday, and it forecasts that which is to come”.  Put something down on it. Cognition is the total minimum.

Soul Food is in ‘Critical Condition’.  MESSAGE…

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.   Even 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, 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, this soul-food restaurant 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 in-dept 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 unparalleled determination?

“Soul Food is a significant component of American History and Culture. It is vital that we preserve and protect it, NOT the other way around”.

“Never rollover kick butt like Beethoven”…


Please post your comments below!

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8 Responses to ‘Critical Condition’ Soul Food Restaurants at the Crossroads! The Series: Part 1

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  2. nan says:

    These restaurants don’t last because we as black people don’t support them? How often do u frequent your black owned restaurants? I’ve polled many blacks & their response is “not very often”. We need to recycle our black dollars & support our sisters & brothers. The next time you have a lunch function at your job, call a black owned restaurant to do the catering, they will appreciate your business. The next time you and the guys or girls grab a bite to eat, skip the commercial chain and spend your dollars in our restaurants. We need to spread the word and teach our children to support black establishments so they can grow up with this enstilled in them. After all other nationalities support their race, its time we do so too!

    • Chef Emanuel says:

      Nan, I love your response. It is dead on and I am the first one to agree with your position. Firstly, I and my Family support them all the time. WE GET IT! This issue is much broader than Soul Food Restaurants. We do not support Black business enough as a whole. Black Owned Banks are a prime example. Almost half of them have gone out of business over the past decade. As many of us ran Downtown to put money in the larger Banks, which by the way are by-in-large very conservative in their lending practices in certain markets. Black-owned Banks Nationwide have suffered as a result.
      Restaurants are NO different.

      Although, I agree vehemently with you, there are many reasons why Soul Food restaurants are in Critical Condition, and there are remedies for it. As Soul Food Restaurant owners, we must to do our part to become more competitive and more relevant in the industry as a Whole. We are not just competing with each other anymore, we must realize that today we are competing in the Global marketplace.

      Today’s consumer has many dining options. This puts all other restaurants companies in the mix. When shopping, consumers of every race, creed or color search for the best product and the best value for their dollar.
      Regardless of what business you are in; Here are the questions that every business owner should ask: #1) Do I have a product that is competitive in the marketplace? #2) Why should consumers shop with me?
      I agree in spades that we should support Black Business, but as far as Soul Food restaurants are concerned, there are many things that we can do to stem the tide. I’m doing my part to make it happen. ‘E’

  3. picky eater says:

    Great Post

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    • Chef Emanuel says:

      Thank you, you are AWESOME! I sent you a message on Facebook. Hey, send me some of that good wine from South Africa. I love it! Where the two oceans come together. Talk soon!

  5. KimberlyC says:

    I love to cook and eat. It’s wonderful that I can now prepare healthy and traditional fare for my family without worry over fat and salt. Thanks!

  6. Dolores says:

    One of the things I see regularly in reference to businesses that cater to or have a majority Black patronage, specifically restaurants & beauty salons, is a lack of quality customer service & a lack of staying relevant or changing with the times. In an age of instant gratification, the most crucial key to customer retention & growth is quality customer service. Even if the food is to die for, I am absolutely not going to spend my money in a place that makes me wait forever to be served and/or one where my food is served to me in a presentation that is less than attractive. Secondly, I don’t want to be served by someone who acts like I’m intruding on their time and they are doing me a favor by taking my order. Third, I really dislike “holes in the wall,” regardless of how good the food is. Please upgrade your physical plant. Paint, clean bathrooms, clean floors, clean windows, clean tables & silverware, you get the idea, can make all the difference in the world. I don’t care how long you’ve been in your location, if your location, service & personnel are not top-shelf, in these super competitive times you won’t survive.
    Additionally, any business that wants to survive in the 21st century and beyond has to embrace the Internet and learn how to master social media. Without an online presence, you don’t exist. Find a branding & marketing firm that will harness this tool for you and work it for all its worth. While many other eating establishments suffer from these same issues, I know that they are absolutely deadly to Soul Food eateries. SN: this advice also stands for salons who have not or refuse to embrace new technologies or understand that I don’t want to & will not wait 2 hrs. or all day to get my hair done!!

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