Soul Food Highlights Detroit’s Longtime Food Traditions While Making Room for New Ideas

By: Karen Dybis | March 19, 2021

Photo Courtesy of Motor City Soul Food.

When it comes to Detroit food traditions and culinary risk takers, the Metro Detroit area has a reputation not only for great soul food but for innovative chefs who work diligently to bring fresh flavors and bright ideas to the table. As a result, Detroit’s soul-food restaurants are both beloved and respected. 

Soul food doesn’t have a single definition or history. Some food experts and culinary historians say soul food is tied to African-American home cooks and chefs who brought Southern traditions to northern locations. For example, Detroit’s soul food tradition can be tied back to the Southern Migration, a movement of people of color from the Southern United States to the Midwest in the early 20th century in hopes of avoiding Jim Crow laws and having a better life.

These chefs and cooks brought some of the best flavors, seasonings and food with them when they settled in the Motor City. Those dishes are found on menus across Detroit and into the suburbs as people spread out in the 1950s, 1960s during the Black Pride movement (which is where some food historians believe the tradition got its name) through today. These foods serve as family traditions, dishes that define African-American culture and are Southern favorites that people of all races, colors and creeds can enjoy together.

Some classic soul food dishes include main dishes such as barbecue meat such as pork and fried proteins, such as fried chicken. Side dishes include collard greens, okra, rice and sweet potatoes. Some common breads or baked goods include biscuits, hoecakes, hush puppies and cornbread. Desserts range from cobblers and puddings as well as treats that include Southern staples such as pecans, peanuts and peaches. 

Here are some of the soul-food restaurants that call Metro Detroit home. 

Detroit Vegan Soul

Since 2010, Detroit Vegan Soul has been making headlines and gaining fans for its approach. This Detroit chain practices what it calls “veganizing” family recipes and soul-food classics. Its 100% vegan soul food is full of spices, fresh vegetables and fruits as well as heart for those who enjoy it whether it is in the restaurants or as carryout during the pandemic.

  

Gina’s Soul Food

This Eastpointe restaurant offers a wide array of traditional Southern cuisine such as chicken and waffles, catfish, turkey chops, beef short ribs and much more. Its food is prepared and cooked with the best local ingredients by chefs who work hard to create an inviting atmosphere as well as beautiful plates of food.

Ms. E-Vee’s Soul Food

Detroit has dozens of soul-food restaurants to choose from, but Ms. E-Vee’s always wins customers over with its comfort-food classics. It is a traditional counter-style ordering system but you’ll get a huge portion of its home-style soul food and a lot of customer service with every order. 

Motor City Soul Food

People from across the United States who have seen Motor City Soul Food on channels such as The Food Network and The Travel Channel rave about the all-you-can-eat meals here. It also was rated as a top soul food place by comic and actor D.L. Hughley, so if celebrity endorsements are your jam, then this is the place to see and be seen.