Lexington: House of Soul Gives a Unique Spin to Southern Food
Soul Food is a subset—or some might argue a brother—of Southern Food. In his book Soul Food, Adrian Miller explains it as the cuisine that developed in a largely urbanized African-American community who were nostalgic for home. Miller also laments the wave of closing of traditional soul food restaurants.
But like Southern Food as a whole, Soul Food is experiencing something of a comeback. This is particularly true as Soul Food dishes go more mainstream, either locating outside of predominantly African-American neighborhoods or gaining such a reputation that they become destination restaurants. We’ve seen this process, for example, with hot chicken in Nashville (read this article on the mainstreaming of hot chicken).
Lexington’s own example of this is The House of Soul, located on South Limestone in a converted house between UK’s campus and downtown. Despite this readily accessible location, it’s also the sort of place that’s easy to overlook as you fight traffic on Limestone. I’ve been eyeing House of Soul for awhile, and recently had the opportunity to check it out.
The dining room is a lovely open space with original hard wood floors and an exposed brick fireplace and chimney in the center. The kitchen, too, is open so you can see the cook and kitchen staff hard at work preparing tasty goodness. A reservoir of “red drink” sat by the window (read Adrian Miller on the importance of red drink to Soul Food).
House of Soul specialities include shrimp and grits and meat loaf, and on Friday fried fish and potatoes. But the real menu star seems to be the chicken and waffles, which they serve as wings & waffles. Chicken and waffles is a soul food combination that has swept the country in recent years, and really ought to be picked up more widely in Southern food restaurants, too. I added sides of kale greens and corn to my wings & waffles order.
The food was fixed to order—I arrived after lunch peak, and it wasn’t crowded—and it arrived hot. I mean HOT. I’ve been to local restaurants of some repute where I’ve even gotten to the point of sending something back to have it at least warmed up. You should not have that problem at House of Soul.
The three fried wings that come with your waffle are not only hot, but they’re huge. That’s a chicken I would not want to arm, er, wing wrestle. I actually packed up one of the wings to take home for the next day.
The chicken is flavored with pepper and subtle spices. It’s not “hot” chicken (as in spicy hot) at all, but I think that’s likely the right thing when paired with the counterpoint of the waffle sweetness. And the savory/sweet interplay really is great. I see why the chicken and waffle combination has taken off.
The sides were a mixed bag. The corn was standard canned corn of no particular note. However, the kale greens made me fall in love. I couldn’t get enough of them, savory perfection with good chew and not slimy. Order the kale.
The dessert menu offered standards banana pudding and peach cobbler. As I was deciding I was told there was off-menu apple cobbler in the back, so apple cobbler it was. It was true cobbler, not pie, served in a bowl with a spoon. There was a tower of ice cream on top, which itself was topped by a squirt of whipped cream. I admit, I wasn’t expecting the apple cobbler to be as good as it was, but it was simply outstanding.
If this is Soul Food, then sign me up!
The House of Soul menu is also family friendly offering a well priced kids menu and it’s UK student friendly, offering a lower priced UK student menu. In fact, I noticed one well-known UK student from Chicago come in while I was there and order the chicken & waffles (his name rhymes with “Tyler Ulis”)
I’m also not sure I’ve ever been in a friendlier restaurant than House of Soul. The waitress—she told me it was her first day—was attentive and helpful. I was spoken to multiple times not only by her, of course, but also by both cooks in the kitchen. As I left I got a hollered “thank you” and “we appreciate you” from the kitchen during what was an increasingly busy time. Food aside, that’s the sort of atmosphere that makes you want to come back.
House of Soul is a great place to find what is unique spin on Southern Food in Lexington. They offer a menu I want to explore in an enjoyable and friendly environment. It’s hard to ask for much more.
House of Soul
207 South Limestone
Tuesday – Saturday 11 AM – 11 PM
Sunday Noon – 9 PM