Six Super Satisfying Soul Foods to Celebrate Soul Food Month

Though the term ‘soul food’ wasn’t introduced until the 1960’s, this heritage cuisine has roots extending back to African slaves in the 14th century. Its original dishes were forged out of the off-cuts and leftovers they were given by their owners, supplemented with whatever produce they could grow or forage and the wild game they hunted. Over time, it evolved to include a broader variety of ingredients and has become the backbone of what most people consider Southern cuisine. Traditionally, this comforting cooking was served mainly below the Mason-Dixon line, though now you can easily find it to the north in New York City and beyond. To honor Soul Food month, we’ve assembled six super satisfying soul foods that will stick to your belly and give you a little taste of history.

Blujeen, Harlem, New York
Chef-owner Lance Knowling is a master of elevating rootsy cuisines to new heights. A perfect example is his smothered pork tenderloin, which comes spangled with sweet potato succotash and a dappling of pan drippings. No wonder Chelsea Clinton hired him to cater her wedding.

Blujeen pork blog copy

Café B, New Orleans, Louisiana
Mac ‘n’ cheese may well be the ultimate comfort food. This winning rendition is made with Irish white cheddar, Gruyere, and Parmigiano-Reggiano – plus a Parmesan topping. Gloriously gooey and über-rich, it’s the perfect kickoff to a meal or a satisfying side.

Cafe B MacNCheese blog copy

Macon Bistro & Larder, Washington, D.C. 
There are few more satisfying sides than a basketful of warm biscuits. These butter-rich rounds are flaky, fluffy, and filling. Split one open to spread on your choice of sweet honey butter or piquant pepper jelly.

Paschal’s Restaurant, Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dizzy Gillespie, and Aretha Franklin have all made pilgrimages to this soul food mecca. They came for the restaurant’s blue ribbon fried chicken, which has been made with the same recipe since 1947. Each order comes with a breast, leg, and wing, plus your choice of a side (go for the collard greens or black-eyed peas).Continue Reading

Trending on Restaurant Reviews: Gumbo

gumbo-blogHappy Fat Tuesday, foodies! It’s the most delicious day of the year in New Orleans — and anywhere that embraces the spirit of Mardi Gras. Naturally, we’ve got NOLA’s best-known dishes on our minds, from crawfish étouffée and jambalaya to beignets and king cakes — and, of course, gumbo. Gumbo is one of those dishes about which everyone and their Cajun or Creole grandmother seems to have a strong (and often differing) opinion. This iconic stew takes its name from kingombo, the African word for okra, a once-paramount ingredient in gumbo. The foundation of a great gumbo is its roux, a blend of fat and flour that is cooked to a smoky, rich brown. Seafood, andouille, duck, and chicken are common ingredients used to round out this deeply satisfying dish. Find out what diners are saying about the gumbo they’ve been sampling at OpenTable restaurants recently. You may be surprised to find that you don’t need to travel to the Big Easy to experience authenticity. 

Atchafalaya, New Orleans, Louisiana: “We were very tired. And hungry. Three parades in one day is probably too much for people travelling with infant twins and another child. We were sans kids for the first time in about a week just for dinner. The staff was very kind to us and rushed us some complimentary gumbo. It was about the best dark roux gumbo I have ever had and really hit the spot.”

Cajun Pacific, San Francisco, California: “I am of Cajun descent, so I am picky and know what gumbo is. I had a bowl of the chicken and andouille version and was not disappointed. The wine list is short but well chosen and reasonable. Having passed the gumbo test (Most places don’t even know the difference between a gumbo and a creole dish), I will be back for something more substantial.”

* Cedar Creek, Glen Cove, New York: “Finding a good Cajun entree on the north shore is harder that finding an actual Cajun! Wasn’t expecting amazing gumbo, but that’s what I got!”

* The Chew Chew, Riverside, Illinois: “One of the many nice things about the Chew Chew is the special menu and theme party offered during Mardi Gras. The restaurant is bedecked with beads, the staff dons masks, and on certain nights a costumed fortune teller visits patrons’ tables. We sip a Sazerac and wander through a small tasting plate of oysters, a cup of spicy (yet beautifully balanced) gumbo, a delightfully moist blackened redfish, and a trio of warm beignets dusted with powdered sugar and artfully poised in a swirl of raspberry coulis.”

Devon Seafood Grill, Hershey, Pennsylvania: “My husband always orders the gumbo, which he says is as good as down south.”

Hammocks Trading Company, Sandy Springs, Georgia: “My order was six delicious, filling grilled oysters stuffed with crab, cheese, and jalapeno. Oh my! Followed this with fried green tomatoes and their fabulous seafood gumbo with the thickest, darkest roux, six nicely sized shrimp plus crabmeat you could see and taste — my favorite dish.”

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Trending on OpenTable Restaurant Reviews: Fried Green Tomatoes

The fried green tomatoes at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan, would surely make Miss Flagg proud.

Fried green tomatoes are a longtime southern specialty, but this Yankee didn’t learn of their simple delights until seeing the movie Fried Green Tomatoes and, later, researching that recipe within Fannie Flagg’s book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. There are several schools of thought on their preferred preparation. Some folks dunk ’em in buttermilk before dredging them in flour; others favor cracker meal or panko or a combination of all of these. At my home, we grow a variety of tomato called Fried Green Tomato that is made just for this very dish. We pluck ’em off the vines, and, adhering closely to Miss Flagg’s original recipe, slice them, weep them with kosher salt, season with pepper and coat them in corn meal seasoned with a touch of cayenne. They are fried to golden goodness in Flying Pigs Farm bacon fat, drained, and served with Crystal Hot Sauce and Duke’s Mayonnaise. It’s high season for fried green tomatoes, and restaurants on OpenTable are creating their own versions to infuse their dishes with a seasonal southern accent. Find out what diners are saying.

Atchafalaya Restaurant, New Orleans: “I will never miss another opportunity to dine here when I visit this city known for great food. The fried green tomatoes were absolutely to die for.”

* Bayou on Penn, Washington, D.C.: “We arrived at Bayou and were greeted like royalty. Our service was great, but the outstanding part was the Grand Marshall brunch: eggs benedict with fried green tomato, tasso ham, fried oyster, and English muffin! WOW.”

The Blue Fish, Jacksonville, Florida: “The fried green tomato was done to perfection, and the addition of the goat cheese made it very special.”

Georgia Brown’s, Washington, D.C.: “I went to Georgia Brown’s with friends during restaurant week and had one of the best meals I’ve had in DC. Fried green tomatoes, gumbo, and peach cobbler — several of which were recommended by our patient, attentive server.”

The Granary ‘Cue and Brew, San Antonio, Texas: “This place likes to challenge your taste buds. First time I tried ranch ice cream with my fried green tomatoes! I enjoyed everything I ate.”

Hungry Mother, Cambridge, Massachusetts: “The pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes appetizer is a knockout highlight, as is the beef tongue with au jus, and the pork belly app has all the flavor you expect from HM.”

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On Our Plate: US Open Dining; Late Summer Restaurant Weeks in Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Philadelphia + More; Restaurant Industry Index

OpenHappenings on and around OpenTable…

* OpenTable has released the OpenTable Restaurant Industry Index for Q2 2013. Find out how restaurants in major cities across the U.S. have been performing.

* The U.S. Open (aka The Most Wonderful Time of the Year) begins on Monday in New York. Find dining hot spots near the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center with these picks from the Tennis Channel.

* Just two more days of Costa Mesa Restaurant Week. Reserve today for up to 40% off on gourmet meals at Costa Mesa’s best eateries, through August 23.

* Dine Tampa Bay is on. Enjoy special three-course $25, $35, and $45 dinners through August 30.

* Baltimore County Restaurant Week heats up! Get charmed by $15.13-$30.13 lunches and $15.13-$35.13 dinners through August 25.

* Downtown Cincinnati Restaurant Week continues. Take advantage of $35 dinners for one or two through August 25.

* Downtown Raleigh Restaurant Week ends soon. Book now for $20 or $30 three-course dinners, and $10 beer or wine pairings at select locations, through August 25.

* Washington, D.C. Restaurant Week has arrived. Snap up $20.13 lunches + $35.13 dinners through August 25.

* Bet on Las Vegas Restaurant Week beginning tomorrow. Book now for $20.13 or $30.13 lunches and $30.13, $40.13 or $50.13 dinners, August 23-30.

* Devour Downtown Indianapolis has kicked off. Enjoy special 3-course, prix-fixe meals through September 1.

* Dining out in the Big Easy is even easier with COOLINARY New Orleans. Enjoy 2 or 3-course lunches for $20 or less and 3-course dinners for $35 or less through August 31.

* Houston Restaurant Weeks continue! Enjoy $20 + $35 brunches, $20 lunches, and $35 + $45 dinners through September 2.

* Spice up your summer with Miami Spice. Order up special $19 or $23 lunches and $33 or $39 dinners through September 30.

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