Dave Hoekstra knows food—soul food, to be exact. The former Chicago Sun-Times journalist traversed the country in search of the soul of his new book, The People’s Place: Soul Food Restaurants and Reminiscences from the Civil Rights Era to Today.
We asked Dave to dish his five favorite Midwest destinations that plate everything from catfish tofu to meaty jambalaya.
Sweetie Pies | St. Louis Former Ike and Tina Turner singer “Miss Robbie” Montgomery runs this corner spot north of the Saint Louis University campus. Miss Robbie whips up many of the dishes she learned to make as a girl in her mother's St. Louis kitchen. Dave recommends the gooey mac and cheese. sweetiepieskitchen.com
Pearl’s Place Restaurant | Chicago Vinyl records line the walls of this Bronzeville neighborhood joint that serves up a shrimp and cheesy grits appetizer as well as a shrimp, chicken and sausage jambalaya with fried corn. But Dave skips those and heads straight for the all-day breakfast items: corned beef hash, salmon croquettes, grits and buttermilk biscuits. pearlsplacerestaurant.com
Photo courtesy of Pearl's Place Restaurant
Detroit Vegan Soul | Detroit Big on quality, short on refined flours, this Detroit restaurant takes a fresh approach to traditional soul food. Their “soul food made with whole food” includes the classic black-eyed peas and cornbread muffins. But you’ll also find a few surprises. Dave says Vegan Soul has “the best catfish tofu in town,” although it may also be the only Motor City spot that serves it. detroitvegansoul.com
Photo courtesy of Adwater Media
Feed | Chicago A corrugated steel awning and rooster decor create a down-home vibe at this Humboldt Park spot in northwest Chicago. “I go here about three times a week,” Dave says. If it’s Monday, he orders the chicken and sausage gumbo. Other days, he'll dive into the light or dark chicken—no matter how it's being prepared that day—with a side of fried okra. feedrestaurantchicago.com
Mr. Perkins' Family Restaurant | Milwaukee Will Perkins (aka “Mr. Perkins”) loved to chat politics and sports with his clientele, which included Hollywood stars and pro athletes like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Although Will passed away five years ago, his family continues the tradition of warmth and hospitality. “They are just incredibly friendly,” Dave says. The restaurant’s known for its sweet potato pie and fried catfish.
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