When the vacant corner spot that once housed the venerable M & J’s Soul Food at 25th and St. Paul streets began to show signs of activity earlier last year, we were giddy with anticipation for the comfort foods it promised. Finally, Georgia Soul Food opened in August and has already amassed a loyal following. Some hardcore enthusiasts may decry the absence of soul-food pillars like hog maws and feet as heresy—the menu being a fairly vanilla roster of home-style dishes—but what Georgia does, it does well. The menu is straightforward with sections for chicken boxes, fish baskets, side dishes, desserts, and drinks. An “Everyday Meal” ($9.99) includes a main dish, like a turkey wing, two sides, and cornbread, and can be embellished with à-la-carte items that are almost anachronistically priced—for example, tilapia for $2.29, a pork chop for $2.19, and a fried chicken breast for $2.69.
On the restaurant’s website, georgiasoulfood.com, the new proprietors promise satisfying Southern soul food culled from the recipes of six generations and three families. And they follow through. The collard greens—always a reliable barometer—offer plenty of smoked neck flavor with a little bit of a kick. The other sides are impressive, too, from the flavorful mac and cheese and green beans to gooey candied yams. The usually humble baked chicken is outstanding, seasoned from the skin right down to the bone, and the fried chicken and fish are crispy and juicy. Salisbury steak with rice and gravy is a sleeper hit, and the fried pork chop (get it with gravy) is down-home delicious.
Whether you choose to carry out or sit in the sunny, cozy dining room, steal yourself for a lengthy wait (usually at least 30 minutes) for your food. Call ahead for to-go orders, and, for dining in, expect earnest but not exactly polished service. If your sweet tooth hasn’t already been sated by the yams, you can count on desserts like banana pudding and sweet-potato pie to do the job.
We liked the peach cobbler, but, for a truly monumental sugar buzz, wash down your food with some cherry Kool-Aid. There is so much sugar in it that it actually feels heavy—but then, that is the proper soul-food way.