Soul Spot offers a deliciously different take on halal food
By Sameer Sarmast
I was sick and I was hungry. I was in the kind of mood that keeps you in bed with Netflix running on all night and ordering food through seamless. Not me though. I needed some soul … soul food.
I escaped the January cold and entered a hole-in-the-wall joint on Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn. The Soul Spot was small but very cozy. The color scheme reminded me of the vibrant colors during carnival. A vintage, orange brick wall proudly sported the restaurant’s name in bold, black letters. Between “Soul” and “Spot” was a sun with the Carribean colors. In the back left corner, there was an L-shaped counter where you ordered and received your food immediately.
Yaya Ceesay, the owner and chef, greeted me and we got to talking. The Soul Spot has been in business since June of 2003. Yaya and his brother, Banumu Turay used to be chefs at another soul food restaurant in Manhattan. They opened up their own place and put an emphasis on Halal. Reflecting upon my travels, I know that this is probably one of the few exclusive Halal Soul Food restaurants in the US.
The restaurant was busy since I got there so I got in line. The dinner menu allowed you to customize your own meal. An entrée, two side orders and your choice of corn bread or rolls. The ladies behind the counter were very friendly. Since I was fighting a cold, I asked them to give me something good.
“It’s all good!” one of the ladies smiled. The hospitality and enthusiasm of the staff was already making me feel better.
Yaya recommended the oxtail but I declined. This is not Bizarre Foods and I am not Andrew Zimmern. I ordered the jerk chicken, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn. The portions were more than plenty. I sat down at one of the few tables inside and went to work.
I expected the corn to be canned but to my surprise, it was actually fresh. It tasted sweet and tender. It must have been a popular item because they had to replace the big, empty trays a couple times.
The mashed potatoes were fluffy yet not dry. They melted in your mouth and there was not a single lump in it. The thick, golden gravy hid a pleasant secret. It was slightly sweet and sour. It was not overpowering like Chinese sweet and sour. It was subtle and the thickness of the gravy was a perfect contrast to the lightness of the mashed potatoes. I never wanted it to end.
Alas, it had to end but for good reasons. The chicken. Goldilocks must have been in the kitchen because the jerk chicken was hot but not too hot. Just right. They definitely marinated it overnight. With what spices? Only God ,Yaya and Banumu know. A secret recipe that would make Colonel Sanders look like a fraud. Speaking of the Colonel, the fried chicken put him to shame. The skin was crunchy with the right amount of salty flavor drenched in oil. The meat was soft and moist. It was real fried chicken. The epitome of soul food.
I finished my plate and laid back. The warm atmosphere of The Soul Spot brought people from all different walks of life. People of different colors and different classes and different beliefs entered and left with food that not only tasted delicious but soothes the soul. I noticed my cold was healed by the food made for my soul. I smiled. With a belly full of love, I got up and grabbed some dessert!
The Soul Spot
302 Atlantic Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11201