Fairfield County offers some of the best food in the country, from trucks to fine dining, and when a restaurant serves food from the soul, it is special, it is uplifting, it makes you overjoyed. Every now and then I visit a new place that fits all these categories. Stephanie Webster, my CTbites partner, and I were looking for a new place for a lunch meeting and we chose Soul Tasty...we wanted to see what the buzz was about. It is located on Main Street in Stamford at the end of a dead end that doubles as the entrance to a pedestrian bridge and parking is incredibly difficult, have patience, it is worth it.
Soul Tasty is the brain-child and dream of Chef Jean Gabriel, Jr. When you walk in, you can feel the love. The walls are brightly painted, a little graffiti on the rear counter pronouncing FEED YOUR SOUL and a colorful menu above the hot trays holding the products of the chef’s homage to the Southern recipes of his grandmother.
Jean’s desire to cook food from the soul is deep-rooted in this soft-spoken gentleman whose enormous smile and modest demeanor was evident as we discussed the restaurant on our visit. As a child, his mother taught him a few techniques in the kitchen and Gabriel decided to pursue his passion and followed his dream by attending the Lincoln Culinary Institute in Hartford, CT, and overseas at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners. His menu combines traditional Haitian cuisine with his family’s recipes. Before opening Soul Tasty he was one of the opening chefs at Paloma.
Soul Tasty is already part of the community with prices that allow anyone to enjoy his food. A guest can enjoy a $5 “Tasty Box” lunch of chicken wings, pork chop, fried fish, or baked or fried chicken and a large portion of dirty rice, or for an extra $1 you can choose fried fish, pork or turkey BBQ, chicken tenders or a smothered pork chop. “Tasty Plates” are all $15 or less and include an entrée of BBQ, baked or fried chicken, chopped BBQ, BBQ or fried pork chop, fried fish or shrimp, with up to four sides. The sides include candied yams, potato salad, collard greens, mac & cheese, dirty rice, sweet potato fries, black eye peas, fried plantain and French fries. Two “$10 Specialty Entrees” include chicken & waffles and shrimp & grits.
We thoroughly enjoyed three dishes that are definitely in the “Must Order” category. My favorite was the Shrimp and Grits (seen above). A bowl of delicious grits was topped with well-seasoned shrimp, with a little sauce drizzled on top. The shrimp were firm, with a little spice and a lot of flavor. The grits were perfectly cooked, balanced between creamy and a little crunch. This is definitely a contender for Best of…
The Smothered Pork Chop was also outstanding. The chop sat atop an enormous mound of some of the best Dirty Rice I have tasted in a long time. It was moist and tender and the mushroom sauce was down home fantastic. The rice was filled with chunks of sautéed beef, carrots, onions and peppers and offered a nice level of heat.
The third was the Fried Chicken Wings (seen above). I commend Tasty Soul for serving the whole wing, all three sections. Pulling the wing apart is almost a ritual and first seeing the three-part crispy skin, perfectly fried, and hearing just a little crackle when the sections were slowly pulled apart was a prelude to the taste. They were crispy on the exterior and moist and delicious on the interior.
The pulled turkey BBQ sandwich was North Carolinian style, and consisted of a large mound of smoked turkey, lathered in a spicy vinegar sauce and served on two slices of white bread (menu states golden bun which I would have preferred). Steph was a big fan of the BBQ, I thought the meat was a little dry, but the sauce added all the moisture required to elevate this to a very good sandwich. A few people at the surrounding tables raved about this sandwich as their favorite on the menu.
We tried several hearty sides and I was surprised that my favorite was the collard greens; they offered just a little resistance, not mushy at all, and delivered a good level of spice to go with the inherent pungency of the greens. The black eyed peas were also excellent. They maintained a great texture and were served in a simple sauce. The last side we tried was the mac & cheese. The flavor was fantastic, Steph like the texture, I prefer mine a little creamier. Don’t forget to unwrapped some of the best cornbread, it was moist, flavorful and fantastic.
Desserts are rotated and we both really enjoyed the sweet potato pie, which was creamy and delightful.
In case you haven’t noticed I really loved Soul Tasty. Each of the dishes let the flavors of the ingredients play center stage, and each was delicious. Chef Jean Gabriel, Jr. dedicated the menu to his family’s heritage and recipes, created a cuisine hub in the neighborhood, offering delicious plates of reasonably priced food, in an environment that makes you smile when you enter and smile even broader while you eat. When I asked him if this was food from the heart, he smiled broadly and said, “it is food from the soul.”
29 Main Street - Stamford, CT 06902
- Shrimp & Grits
- Smothered Pork Chop
- Chicken Wings
- Dirty Rice
- Collard Greens
- Black Eyed Peas
- Corn Bread
- Mac & cheese
- Sweet potato pie