10 Places to Eat Soul Food in Tampa Bay

June is National Soul Food Month, so we’ve rounded up a few Tampa Bay restaurants serving Southern comfort food.

In his book “High on the Hog”, the author Jessica B. Harris writes that “soul food has been defined as the traditional African American food of the South”, but that there is disagreement about the exact nature of this food. The term “soul food” was coined in the 1960s as part of the civil rights movement.

“It would seem that the nourishment of the soul depends on an ineffable quality,” Harris writes. “It’s a combination of nostalgia and pride in the food of those who came before us.”

So while the definition is somewhat fluid, common staple foods include fried chicken, green vegetables, macaroni and cheese, and pork. There’s all this and more on this list.

Come eat soul food at these 10 places.

Heavy’s restaurant and takeaway

Part food truck, part brick-and-mortar in St. Petersburg’s Deuces Live neighborhood, this restaurant serves fried chicken and fried pork chops, which you can also smother for added decadence. Warmly spiced oxtail falls off the bone while tangy yellow rice soaks up their juices. The sides of mac and cheese and collard greens are a must, and don’t skip the cornbread. When you feel the weight of your plate, the name of the restaurant takes on meaning and the food sticks to your ribs. 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. 911 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg. 727-914-0632. heavysfoodtruck.com.

Mama’s Southern Soul Food

Find traditional soul foods like andouille sausages, pork jaws and pork feet at locations in Tampa (3701 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 813-769-9552), Brandon (1013 Brandon Blvd., 813-330-7012) and Lakeland (518 E. Memorial Blvd., 863-213-4377). The robust menu features all the favorites and more unique dishes, like cube steak with Mama’s secret sauce. Fried baskets include seafood, chicken livers and gizzards. Try one of their tasty cakes for dessert. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. mamassoulfoodrestaurant.com.

Steph’s Southern Soul Restaurant

With the slogan “It is what it is, good,” this Dade City restaurant offers plates with combinations of meats and sides, including Steph’s Plate, which is a choice of four sides with bread. Good luck choosing. In addition to the traditional greens and macaroni and cheese, there’s broccoli rice casserole, okra and tomatoes, sweet potato soufflé and a vegetable of the day. Biscuits, cornbread, dinner rolls and hush puppies are the bread choices, and there are seven salad options. Wash it all down with watermelon lemonade or mango tea. 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday to Saturday. 14519 Fifth Street, Dade City. stephssouthernsoul.com.

7th and Grove

Serving “Southern classics with an upscale twist,” this popular Ybor City restaurant has cleverly named its menu items. Get Your MF’n Roll On is an egg roll stuffed with braised collard greens, mac and cheese, and jerk chicken served with jerk sauce. Fried chicken thigh served over macaroni and cheese and collard greens with watermelon cubes is called Let’s Stay Together, while Rock the Boat features fried or pan-seared catfish served over Gouda grits, with okra fried, pico de gallo and Creole sauce. You also have the option of adding fried or pan-fried chicken, shrimp or salmon for an additional fee. The place also serves lunch and weekend brunch and offers craft cocktails and wine. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Wednesday, 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. 1930 E. Seventh Avenue, Tampa. 813-649-8422. 7thandgrove.com.

Blue Flame Southern Restaurant and Lounge

Cream of mushroom preparation, chicken and turkey wings are among the specialties of this Tampa restaurant. Sunday specials include andouille sausages, pig’s trotters, curried goat’s cheese and Cornish hen. Lima beans, field peas and yams are among the side dishes, and banana pudding is on the dessert menu. Noon-8 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. 1524 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa. 813-280-9865. blueflametampa.com.

Southern Baja Cuisine and More

There are daily specials on the menu at this Gulfport restaurant, but staples include fried or smothered chicken, pork chops and turkey wings and a fried or grilled lobster basket. Specials include fully loaded seafood on Tuesdays; barbecue ribs and chicken on Wednesday; oxtails and andouille sausages on Thursday; Cajun shrimp or fish and grits on Friday; barbecue brisket on Saturday; and robust offerings on Soul Food Sunday, including a long list of desserts like sour cream pound cake and honey cake. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. 1836 and 1838 S. 49th Street, Gulfport. 727-323-4286. bajassutherncooking.org.

Ella’s American Folk Art Cafe

Every week, this popular Seminole Heights spot in Tampa offers a Soul Food Sunday Brunch. Fried chicken and waffles are headlining. You get two drumsticks and a thigh with a Belgian waffle, with bourbon orange honey. From the name alone, you have to try The Florida Man, a smoked sausage topped with smoked beans and apple coleslaw. Sunday is also time for barbecue, Kansas City style. Hoppin’ John, collard greens, mac and cheese and fried green tomatoes are among the side dishes. There are also vegan options like the VBQ sandwich, featuring smoked portobello, tofu, zucchini and roasted red peppers with barbecue sauce, with side choices of vegan mac and cheese and smoked corn. The lunch and dinner menu also has a soul. 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. 5119 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa. 813-234-1000. ellasfolkartcafe.com.


In the evening, this Seminole Heights restaurant in Tampa offers steak, grilled oysters and whole snapper with sides like truffle mac and cheese and burnt mashed sweet potatoes. At brunch, there are three types of chicken and waffles: churro, confetti and red velvet. A fillet of catfish or Cajun shrimp with grits (add a honey butter biscuit for an extra charge) and a seafood omelet with fried lobster served with Cajun lump blue crab cream sauce are also on the menu. Cocktails are also creatively crafted, like the Holy Smokin Coconuts, made with mezcal, pineapple, lime, coconut and mint and ceremonially torched. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. 7701 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa. 813-551-0791. coasisrestaurant.com.

Lorene’s Fish House

With the slogan “comfort food for the soul,” this walk-up spot in St. Petersburg’s Deuces neighborhood specializes in seafood but has plenty of offerings, including breakfast. Fried catfish, grouper, tilapia and whiting are available as sandwiches, baskets of fries or two-side dinners, including garlic rice and green beans. If you love garlic as much as we do, try the seafood platter with spicy garlic mussels and shrimp (chef’s kiss). 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday. 929 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg. 727-321-7297.

Kitchen + Living room Lepley

Lepley’s made a splash when it opened in Tampa last year with its sexy aesthetic and cool nightlife vibe. The menu is Southern comfort food with a Caribbean twist, so jerk flavors are woven into a few dishes. The restaurant is owned by actor Tyler Lepley, who stars in “Harlem” and “P-Valley.” The dish named for Ian, his chef character in “Harlem,” is very comforting: cheesy grits topped with fried lobster tail and sausage and drizzled with a creamy Cajun sauce. And if you’re feeling extra luxurious, get the Chicks in Paris, a 12-piece golden bucket of fried chicken served with a bottle of Moet Chandon Brut champagne. 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday, 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. 6310 N. Florida Ave., Tampa. lepleystampa.com.

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