- Corvaya Jeffries
- Off the Clock Staff Palm Beach Post Staff Writers
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.
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;
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.
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.
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; BayBays.com
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.