Dig In: Seven Spots for the Soul in the Valley

soul food

Photo courtesy JL Smokehouse Instagram

By Analisa Valdez

October 9, 2023

 

Nothing hits the spot quite like soul food.

Soul food, traditionally made and eaten by Southern Black Americans, brings a special type of Southern comfort to every dish. It can be difficult to come by in Arizona if you’re not sure where to look, so here’s a list of seven spots for the soul in the Valley to check out for a serving of delicious soul food.

 

Taste My City

10720 W. Indian School Road, #20, Phoenix

Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. | Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Starting out in the mountains near Glendale is Taste My City. A small BBQ shop that offers daily deals on their meats, sides, desserts, and drinks, Taste My City features a variety of soulful platters and combos.

Taste My City’s daily deals include $.75 Wing Wednesday, 15% off any fish combo for Fish Fry Friday, and the popular Slab Saturday where customers can buy a whole slab of Baby Back Ribs for $25. I got to order their fried catfish combo with mac and cheese, bread, and onion rings served with a side of savory BBQ sauce.

Other featured items also include chicken and rib tips, beef hot links, wings, ribs, and BBQ chicken. Guests may also order ahead of time for larger serving portions. Taste My City also serves large sides that include their cheesy baked macaroni, collard greens, potato salad, and yams; any of their small portioned desserts like their banana pudding and peach cobbler; and Kool-Aid by the gallon.

Can’t miss: Their specialty tangy BBQ sauce. Whether you ordered onion rings or french fries, the sauce is the cherry on top of any combo meal.

 

Southern Rail Restaurant

300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix

Hours: Wednesday to Friday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. | Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Named by the Food Network as one of the “Best Restaurants in Phoenix” in 2019, Southern Rail in central Phoenix offers a large variety of the soulful dishes.

Their appetizers include dirty rice balls, apple and butternut squash cakes, and collard greens. Entrees include their award-winning signature fried chicken served with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and collard greens, or the specialty dish I got which was the shrimp n’ creamy grits made with the holy trinity of tomato, bacon, and savory hot sauce.

Parched during your meal? Southern Rail has a selection of over 30 Arizona wines that are half-off by the bottle on Sundays after 4 p.m. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, check out their expansive cocktail menu that includes drinks like the Rail Runner made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Lillet, house-made honey syrup and lemonade, soda, and bitters; or the Monsoon cocktail made with dark and light Rum, tropical juices, and passion fruit puree.

Can’t miss: Appetizers. No matter how big your party or how hungry you are, you should definitely try at least one during your meal.

 

All About Food Kitchen AZ

1624 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix

Hours: Tuesday to Thursday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. | Friday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Headed towards South Mountain is where our next spot is:All About Food Kitchen AZ. Locally owned and operated, All About Food Kitchen AZ brings authenticity to each dish. Appetizers include buffalo shrimp bites served with bleu cheese dipping sauce, green-bean fries, and golden fries.

Popular dishes include their Po’Chop Samich made with a fried and hand-battered 6-ounce pork chop or any of their combos that come with a taste of either their signature Southern fried chicken, catfish, red snapper, or whiting. All entrees are served with a choice of sides like okra, collard greens, sweet potatoes, or mac and cheese.

I got a spicy fried chicken sandwich made with grilled onions and melted cheese with a side of the seasoned, deep-fried green beans and their delicious homemade buffalo dipping sauce. The meal was delicious, but the company was incredible. The restaurant has a community center feel that brings a sense of family to the dining experience that you won’t find anywhere else.

Can’t miss: Sitting at the bar and socializing with some of the most welcoming people.

 

JL Smokehouse

2010 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix

Hours: Monday to Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. | Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Also near South Mountain is a small smokehouse next door to a large church. Known for their delicious Southern comfort foods and their large portions of smoked meats, JL Smokehouse brings authentic barbecue soul food to the Valley. Voted best barbeque in Phoenix in 2018 by the Arizona Republic, JL Smokehouse certainly lives up to its title.

Their menu features mix-and-match combo options varying between their many meat selections like smoked sausage, brisket, pulled pork, ribs, pork belly, and more. Each meat is either served by itself, in a sandwich, or by the pound. Specialties include their smoked fried BBQ wings, their 5-6 piece fried catfish meal, fresh JL french fries, or their unique BBQ spaghetti.

I got the Whipper Snapper combo with pulled pork, brisket, and a side of mac and cheese, with an added side of their delicious fresh okra. And guests should ask about their peach cobbler dessert on the way out.

 

Can’t miss: ask about their freshly made Cedar Lane lemonade.

 

Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles

3133 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale

Hours: Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. | Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. | Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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With two locations in Old Town Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix, Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles. With a classic sports bar feel inside, the establishment is full of friendly faces and delicious food.

Lo-Lo’s has a large variety of specialty drinks to choose from like their Rooster Punch made with red Kool-Aid, vodka, rum, gin, triple sec, and Sprite, or the enormous $51 Frozen 1942 Margarita served inside of the large bottle of Don Julio 1942 it’s made with.

Serving breakfast all day, Lo-Lo’s is known for the special combo plates of fried chicken and fluffy waffles, with different mix-and-match options to choose from including wings, breasts, legs, or thighs.

Their menu also features the breakfast favorite Yo Momma’s Biscuits & Gravy served with two eggs and home fries, or their Famous Soulfood platter that comes with different combo options. The one I got came with a juicy fried chicken breast, a delicious filet of fried catfish, a side of whipped potatoes, classic mac and cheese, and buttered cornbread.

Can’t miss: When they ask if you want the specialty brown gravy on your potatoes, answer “Yes.”

 

Soul Cafe

7615 E. Pinnacle Peak Road, Scottsdale

Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. | Sunday,  7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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A bit of a drive through north Scottsdale is the popular brunch spot Soul Cafe. A bustling, bougie, upscale spot, Soul Cafe offers a very different atmosphere than most of the other family-owned soul spots. The restaurant brings an exquisite Mexican twist to each hearty soul-food dish.

If you’re looking for a place to try out new types of soulful platters and plates, look no further. The Cafe’s featured dishes include the Crazy Cowboy country fried steak with green pork chili, pork sausage gravy, two eggs, and roasted potatoes, or the popular Chilaquiles & Eggs served with cheddar jack cheese, crumbled feta, and diced tomatoes.

Looking to catch a break from the heat? Stick around at Soul Cafe’s bar, where they have a series of breakfast cocktails like the jalapeno-bacon bloody mary, Coffeetini, Breakfastini, Salt & Peppaloma, or the Gray Whale Gin’s Duck, Duck, Booze, served with a mini rubber duck.

Can’t miss: the Jumbo Wet Burrito made with scrambled eggs, chorizo sausage, roasted potatoes, and cheddar jack cheese, all stuffed inside a large flour tortilla and smothered with green pork chili.

 

SugarJam The Southern Kitchen

15111 N. Hayden Road, Suite 170, Scottsdale

Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Never have I had more fun stopping by to grab chicken and waffles at a place before. From the second you walk into this Scottsdale joint, SugarJam The Southern Kitchen makes you feel right at home.

With a sweet bakery feel mixed with an upscale brunch parlor, SugarJam is a Black-owned and Black-run local business that incorporates the sugary fluffiness of baked pastries and combines them with fried, baked, and grilled savory dishes. With up to an hour wait on busy days, be sure to book ahead in advance to get the full experience.

Provided with upbeat music throughout the meal, customers can choose from a variety of soulful food platters and plates. Featured dishes included the salmon croquettes drizzled with chipotle remoulade served with creamy Southern grits, eggs, and a buttermilk biscuit; the jalapeno and cheddar & chive biscuits made with applewood smoked pulled pork layered with caramelized onions, SJ’s housemade BBQ sauce, eggs, and herbed potatoes.

Featuring a boozy brunch on weekends with a live DJ and good vibes, SugarJam is worth the waiting time. While socializing and eating, be sure to grab one of SugarJam’s popular mimosa flights, where you can choose three samples of flavors, including the Southern Sunrise, Just Peachy, Fantasy Island, Strawberry Margarita, and many more.

Can’t miss: The classic dish of fluffy Belgian waffles served with eggs and crispy, seasoned fried chicken tenders.

READ MORE: 6 BBQ Spots in Tucson Bringing All the Smoke and Flavor

Author

  • Analisa Valdez

    Analisa Valdez is a lifestyle reporter for The Copper Courier. She also covers the arts and entertainment world for the Echo. Analisa has been part of the State Press for three years and is in her third year at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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