Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Soul Food Niche: Search for the Perfect African American Cuisine

Upon arrival at Penn, I desperately wanted to find an authentic soul food restaurant. Philadelphia, known for its array of traditional southern cuisine, enticed my inner gourmand. Yes, Philadelphia offers the best cheesesteaks and water ice, but soul food is my most recent calling. After performing an extensive Google search and asking fellow Penn students, I narrowed down my options to four distinct restaurants all within a ten-minute Septa ride; Sarah & Sylvia's Soul Food, Elena's Soul, Fat's Breakfast & Soul Food, and This Is It.

This past Saturday I dined at Sarah & Sylvia's Soul Food and was pleasantly surprised. Sarah & Sylvia's Soul Food boasts homemade sweet iced tea and seafood, chicken and BBQ platters all under $13. When asked about the most popular items on their menu, a waitress revealed that their yams and mac n' cheese are their best sellers. The restaurant also offers breakfast sandwiches, omelets, pancakes and grits.

I ordered the pork-chop platter with two sides of mac n' cheese and collard greens. The authentic flavoring of collard greens with hints of smoked turkey and the tenderness of my well-seasoned pork-chop contributed positively to my first encounter with Philadelphia soul food. The mac n' cheese had the right mixture of crunch and flavoring on the top with a warm and cheese-filled middle. My pork chop wasn't over saturated with fat and was nicely seasoned with a special dry rub of cumin, pepper, Mrs. Dash and coriander. Most importantly, my meal cost less than $18 dollars for pork chops, two sides and a fountain drink- definitely noteworthy as a splurge for penny-pinching college students like myself.

In the following weeks I plan to try Elena's Soul, Fat's Breakfast & Soul Food, and This Is It. Hopefully these restaurants live up to the high report of Sarah & Sylvia's Soul Food. I've only just begun on my quest for the perfect Philly soul food.

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