photo credit: Sandy Noto
When you’re in a bad mood - because of traffic, the weather, or your date last night who smelled like Febreze and stole your Ventra card - it’s important to know about some things that can make you feel better. For example, restaurants with the Feel Good Factor™. And Soule, a BYOB soul food restaurant in West Town, has so much of it that you’ll forget all about that $37 cab ride you took home.
The Feel Good Factor™ at Soule is apparent right when you walk in, despite the fact that you almost definitely won’t get seated for a while. The delicious-smelling food, and a nice, helpful person taking your name (and number if you want to hang out at the bar next door), will immediately make you feel glad you’re here. The atmosphere is enjoyable - it’s brightly lit and cheerful, with a lot of comfy booths. And the food is worth the wait.
Soule’s short menu has excellent versions of Southern and soul food classics. For example, juicy and flavorful fried green tomatoes covered in a spicy remoulade, and crispy fried catfish that’s perfectly seasoned. There’s also a big bowl of shrimp and grits in a buttery, garlicky sauce that’s so enjoyable we wouldn’t be surprised to find out it’s made with teddy bear tears.
Then there are the sides, which take a meal here from really good to great. The lineup includes smoky collard greens that have the perfect balance of vinegar to fatty ham, simple-looking mac and cheese that’s actually some of the best we’ve ever had, and a chicken spaghetti - with chicken breast, American cheese, and a tasty cream sauce - that illustrates why, deep inside every person, there’s a hidden appreciation for casseroles. Most entrees come with a choice of two sides, but the only reasonable thing to do is order as many as you want, on principle.
In fact, the only real problem with Soule is that it’s too small for the number of people who (understandably) want to eat here. Depending on where you’re sitting, you’ll have a view of all the hopeful diners milling around waiting for a table. But they never seem particularly impatient - maybe because they understand what happens when you sit down here: you don’t want to leave.
Soule has eat-your-feelings food in the best way possible. And you shouldn’t just save it for when you’re sad - it’s as good for celebrating a special occasion as it is for getting over your ex’s joke about your morning breath at Laugh Factory’s open mic night. The point is, no matter what kind of mood you’re in when you arrive here, you’re going to leave feeling even better.
Fried Green Tomatoes
The fried green tomatoes are juicy, the breading is well-seasoned, and the spicy remoulade on top is delicious.
Shrimp and Grits
Whether you get this by yourself as an entree, or get it to share, the shrimp and grits needs to be on the table. It’s buttery and garlicky, with perfectly cooked shrimp and cheesy grits.
The cornmeal-crusted catfish is crispy, and the seasoning in the batter is spot-on. Add a little hot sauce, and this is your new favorite fried catfish.
The batter for this is pretty light, and it doesn’t overwhelm the chicken. You get to choose between dark and light meat, and the dark is our favorite.
The lamb chops are cooked to medium, and get a tasty salty and smoky flavor from the gravy they’re served with.
Salmon and Shrimp
This is a generous serving of salmon, with a few pieces of shrimp. It’s on a bed of mashed potatoes so good we’re sad they’re not a side, and the garlic cream sauce needs to be poured all over our problems.
You have a few sides to choose from here: greens, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, chicken spaghetti, creamed corn, dirty rice, and asparagus. Except for the watery creamed corn and boring-by-nature asparagus, we’d come here for a meal of the sides.
There are three desserts on the menu, and they’re all worth getting. There’s a cake of the day, banana pudding, and a warm peach cobbler with ice cream. The cake and banana pudding are (rather disconcertingly) served in plastic to-go containers, but we don’t care. We’re staying to enjoy ourselves for as long as possible.