As the website explains, “Angie started laying the foundation for down-home Soul food around the late 70’s, when she cooked in the Carnegie Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio. Within the confines of that kitchen she concocted recipes that she brought with here from Santuck (Union), South Carolina. Emphasizing on preparing everything from scratch and blending the perfect seasonings, she started to build a following around the city that supports Angie’s still today.”
Angie’s Soul Cafe is a local chain of soul food restaurants with a location on St. Clair Avenue, one on Harvard Avenue, and one at Emory and Green Roads. They must be doing something right. Angie’s brand has expanded to include Angie’s Kitchen, Angie’s Soul Food, Angie’s Chicken & Waffle, Angie’s Mobile Service, Stonetown on Prospect, and the more upscale Zanzibar Soul Fusion. They also have a food truck. I go to the Midtown location on St. Clair because it is close to me. I can’t speak for any of the other locations.
The focus here is on the food. The St. Clair location is a fairly utilitarian space. The restaurant itself was pretty bare. The tables are not adorned and the chairs are pretty basic. Specials are written on a chalkboard behind the counter. The counter has chafing dishes of freshly prepared food, which they go through quickly, but they also make certain things when you order it. Customers don’t linger either, they order their food at the counter, wait for it to be prepared, then leave. I usually grab the delicious home-cooked food and take it home, but I have seen several people eating in their car. A lot of the customers were greeted by name, and it was nice to see that personal touch. Customers who eat in the dining room have their food brought out to them on trays when it is ready.
The first time I went, I stuck with my usual “KFC order” of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans. It was way better than KFC. The fried chicken was perfect. I ordered the white meat meal, and the breast was juicy and the wing was not dried out at all. The mashed potatoes were not instant flakes. You could tell they were real potatoes. The gravy was a little meager, but it was enough to have some with each bite of mashed potato. The green beans were also really good. Every dinner comes with a moist corn muffin.
Everyone on Yelp was raving about the tilapia, so I knew I needed to try it. I ordered the tilapia dinner with sides of yams and collard greens. I swear to god I heard the angels sing when I bit into the yams. I have never been a big fan of yams. Until now. Those yams alone are enough to keep me coming back. The collard greens were a bit too bitter for my taste. I make them with a light vinegar and ham hocks. These greens were vegetarian-friendly and I missed the smoothness of the ham flavor. The tilapia itself was lightly breaded and perfectly fried. I couldn’t have been happier with my meal.
They are known for their smothered chicken and pork chops, so I had to try the smothered chicken. I ordered it with mashed potatoes (because that smothered gravy begs for mashed potatoes in my mind) and the collard greens because I wanted to be somewhat healthy. Hah, please let me live with my delusion. The smothered chicken came with three pieces of breaded chicken in a thick, rich, delicious chicken-based gravy. The gravy had huge pieces of onion in it as well that were soft as could be and was generously served over both the chicken and the mashed potatoes.
They also have a cooler of mason jars behind the register filled with bright colored Kool-Aid. I asked the cashier which one was her favorite and she told me it was Green, so green it was. The Kool-Aid was really good, but really sweet. They serve it with a lot of ice, which waters it down, in the restaurant. At home I cut it with a LOT of water (think half and half), so it went a long way. It was only after I ordered that I saw that they also serve the Sunset (lemonade & iced tea), the Sunrise (lemonade & red Kool-Aid), and my favorite the Purple Rain (lemonade & grape Kool-Aid). I ordered the Purple Rain the next time I went (see photo), but I think they misunderstood me and gave me Purple (grape). No big deal, because it’s my favorite flavor from childhood. It lasted several days served over ice and cut with water.
The dessert choices in the refrigerated counter looked really good, featuring peach cobbler or chef’s choice cobbler, sweet potato pie, and various cakes. I was there on a Sunday when it is on special, so I ordered the banana pudding. It was really creamy and good, and the portion was generous (unlike, say, Old Carolina’s banana pudding, which is pretty small). It had lots of decent chunks of banana and vanilla wafers. Just a good southern banana pudding.
Angie must be doing something right to have so many offshoots here in the Cleveland area. Be sure to check her out – and get the candied yams. You can thank me later.
Angie’s Soul Cafe
3400 St. Clair Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
16906 Harvard Ave
23041 Emery Rd