National Southern Food Day: Where to find legit soul food in Palm Beach County

Today is National Southern Food Day. So, if you are looking for good southern food, or soul food today, we found that for you! 

 If you think there aren’t enough soul food restaurants around the county for a guide, think again. And guess what? The establishments that serve what you’d get from Grandma’s kitchen are steeped in history and family traditions, like the ones that inspire Ms. Wylene Jackson’s memorable sweets at Jack-Ham’s Soul Food Restaurant in West Palm Beach.  

The local soul food culture dates back to the early 1900s, notes Lori J. Durante, a local culinary expert who runs the history-based Taste Culinary Tours. Her narrated bus tour serves as an annual Black History Month trip for African-American retirees and seniors patronizing Southern restaurants. But interest in the topic is growing and draws a cultural mix to her tours.

Durante, who sings the praises of local Southern soul foods, often takes her tour participants to soul food restaurants like Donnie’s in Delray Beach or The Banyan Restaurant in Belle Glade. 

Her tour members learn that soul food spread, thanks to the Great Migration from 1916 to 1970s, where millions of African Americans left the South and relocated to Northeastern states and California “for more opportunities,” she says.

“Their cuisines were decidedly Southern, cooked by both whites and blacks, but became associated with an African American culinary experience because of the Great Migration.” 

But let’s take our own tour. 

Here’s a sampling of what Palm Beach County  has to offer in the soul food sector. Take note of the favorites we’ve tried at each location -- we think they would make for a delicious, tummy-filling feast.  

Donnie’s Place

Home of the smothered wings

Donnie Dobson, 67, opened his soul food restaurant 27 years ago. The location may have changed but he’s still there, serving delicious smothered chicken wings (meat falls off the bones) with grits, scrambled eggs and toast ($8.77). It’s a filling, delectable dish that would be appropriate for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Diner style, Donnie’s is the real deal when it comes to Southern homestyle cooking . Even the beverage he calls “Donnie’s Drink” ($2.25) is a testament to that. It’s that super-sweet red drink that reminds you of childhood. 

Food is served in generous portions here. 

Donnie’s Place; 60 NW 5th Ave, Delray Beach; 561-243-9996;  Facebook Reviews


Have your cake and eat it, too

Owner, Wylene Jackson, “Ms. Wylene,” is known for her addictive sweets like fried cheesecake, strawberry lemon cake and pistachio cake. But, these are not the only items on the menu. She and her son, Kevin Jackson, 40, have been serving her memorable meatloaf plate on Spruce Avenue and 20th Street in West Palm since last year. 

Jack-Ham’s is only open from Wednesday through Sunday. They’ve got an extensive menu and serve generous portions. Catch one of their “Snack Paks” during a busy lunch hour: Chicken gizzards, tenders or wings served with french fries, for less than $6. 

Jack-Hams Soul Food Restaurant: 2055 Spruce Ave, West Palm Beach; 561-410-8239; Facebook Page

Zara’s Jazz Cafe

No one takes care of you like Mary Lou

Every first and third Sunday, Mary Lou is behind the bar at Zara’s Cafe, which is located at the Ramada Hotel on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard in West Palm Beach. 

When you walk in, let her know you’d like to buy a ticket for the feast, otherwise known as the soul food buffet ($20).  In line for the fried chicken, collard greens, baked macaroni and cheese and fish/vegetarian options is a Sunday crowed dressed to the nines in creased pants and knee-length dresses. No one leaves hungry. 

Zara Jazz Cafe: 1901 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd, West Palm Beach; 561-762-2013; Facebook Page

Bay Bay’s Chicken & Waffles

Best quickie stop for fried chicken

Bay Bay’s small but consistently busy locations sell well seasoned, buttermilk-marinated chicken breasts, thighs and wings. Make your meal sweet with a fresh-made waffle. For $3 you can upgrade from a traditional buttermilk waffle to one flavored in lemon cake, red velvet, strawberry, chocolate, pumpkin pie or pecan.

Bay Bay’s at 1558 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. is presently the only location open. The original Okeechobee location has closed and the Boynton Beach location is temporarily closed for repairs and should reopen in September; 561-360-3591;

Celebrity Restaurant & Lounge

Feed the family

Celebrity’s gives you an extensive menu of quickie dinners, filling platters and the option to order family or group meals. You won’t go wrong with ordering their cornbread as a side to any meal you choose. Upon walking in, you’ll feel like you’re in an event venue, so don’t shy away from getting friends and relatives together for dinner here. There is more than enough space. 

Celebrity’s Restaurant & Lounge: 1300 N Military Trail, West Palm Beach; 561-246-8417; Facebook Page

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Food

Fire up the grill: Make smoky, saucy salmon on a cedar plank
Fire up the grill: Make smoky, saucy salmon on a cedar plank

I’ve been on a salmon kick for weeks now. I love that it’s adaptable to a range of marinades and sauces. It’s easy to grill, roast, pan-sear or poach. It’s filling. And, bonus, the leftover fillets are delicious when served cold or at room temp over lunchtime greens or grains. I mean, what’s not to love?  The following...
Some choice words for diabetes
Some choice words for diabetes

Type 2 diabetes was once known as adult-onset diabetes. But now that term is outdated: Increasingly it is a disease that begins in childhood. Between 2000 and 2009, the rate of Type 2 diabetes in children jumped more than 30 percent — and it is climbing especially fast among children from poor and minority families. The prevalence of the disease...
I finally got my Bundt cake out of its pan. Here's how.
I finally got my Bundt cake out of its pan. Here's how.

In any compendium of foods that serve a crowd, the Bundt cake is a star. It is pretty, its number of slices can be stretched and it holds for days under cover, all of which makes it ideal for a house full of company or for carrying to a cake-worthy occasion. The Bundt was not always so ubiquitous. In 1966, Pillsbury Bake-Off judges awarded second place...
Have you tried the Whole Foods sandwich that went viral?
Have you tried the Whole Foods sandwich that went viral?

Anyone can get their hands on the latest buzzy food craze: You just walk up to the deli at a Whole Foods, tell them you want “that TTLA sandwich” and pay $8 at the cash register.  That is, unless the deli is out of the ingredients, particularly the vegan tempeh “bacon” strips that are stuffed into the sandwich. Between...
How an 80-pound goldendoodle helped build a California wine brand
How an 80-pound goldendoodle helped build a California wine brand

When Eric Story and Alison Smith-Story started their winery in 2014, they didn't follow any conventional path. An old saw advises that to make a small fortune in the wine industry, you should start with a large one. That was not an option, so they went the modern way. "We didn't have an inheritance, and we hadn't started and sold a software company...
More Stories