So often, the way we learn about other people is through food. Anthony Bourdain built an empire on this premise. When I travel, I seek out the local restaurants - not the ones where the tourists go, but the ones that are packed with locals on their lunch break from work.
You can get a glimpse of someone else's culture and history through food. In Argentina, for instance, pizza is served with empanadas. The pizza comes from Italians who settled there during a mass migration from the late 1800s to the 1930s. Empanadas are believed to come from the Spaniards, and were a working man's meal. Today, it's still an easy dinner meal. And so, through food, we understand the influence of the Spaniards and Italians who migrated to Argentina.
And in America, there is Soul food - a derivative of the cuisine cooked out of necessity by African slaves but made even better today by classically trained chefs. Fried chicken. Cornbread. Collard greens or black-eyed peas seasoned with smoked ham.
It is this food, and this culture, that Chefs Todd Richards and Joshua Lee are bringing to Atlanta with their restaurant, Soul Food & Culture, at Krog Street Market. They do it so well that we added them to our tours.
It's no surprise, as the chefs have won numerous awards between them. It's the second restaurant by Chefs Richards and Lee. Their first, Lake & Oak Neighborhood BBQ, opened last year in East Lake. Besides serving delicious food, they have a mission to educate the community about black culinary traditions through cooking workshops, according to this Washington Post article. And to give black people opportunities to flourish.
Chef Richards, a native of Chicago, knows good Southern food, or maybe just good food. He has been a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Award twice, and has appeared on Iron Chef America. He also wrote an award-winning cookbook, Soul, which I might soon add to my collection.
Just look at these fried green tomatoes, above and below, smothered with pimento cheese and a bit of hotness.
And like the chicken sandwich, these chicken wings are perfectly battered and fried.
And if you just can't bring yourself to eat fried food, there's always cake.
But as much as the recipes in the Soul cookbook represent historical black dishes, they also explore other types of cuisine. Try mixing soul food with Asian, and you get Collard Green Ramen. You also get a new restaurant - Kuro, which will serve Japanese-Soul Food fusion when it opens soon on the Atlanta BeltLine, in the space formerly occupied by Hazel Jane's.
I can't wait.
An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the Founder & CEO of BiteLines, which offers walking food & art tours on the Atlanta BeltLine. She considers the BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. The BiteLines blog features art, restaurants, happenings and weirdness on the Atlanta BeltLine. Share story ideas and pics at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow on Instagram @bitelinesatl.