The Best Soul Food in Tampa: 5 Spots You Need to Try|
Right alongside year-round sunshine and white sand beaches, Tampa’s rich culinary scene is one of the best reasons to live in the area. And while defining Tampa’s culinary prowess normally involves talk of Cuban sandwiches and seafood, several restaurants are now presenting a strong argument that soul food deserves a proverbial seat at the table.
What is Soul Food? With well-defined roots in the rural South, soul food is commonly confused with Southern food. However, the two terms are not completely interchangeable. As Chef Millie Peartree puts it in her article with Delish Magazine, “not all Southern food is considered soul food, [but] all soul food is definitely Southern.”
Historically, soul food, including dishes such as fried chicken, fried fish, collard greens and sweet potato pie, directly stems from dishes prepared by enslaved African-Americans in the Southern United States. As these groups reacted to Emancipation and relocated due to racial oppression and the promise of a better life, The Great Migration also proliferated soul food around the country. These dishes not only gave Black populations a way to connect with their history but also the possibility to build new communities strengthened by tradition and shared experiences.
Keep reading below as we stop-in and explore five of the best soul food restaurants in Tampa. Whether you are in search of oxtails, fried fish, cornbread, or another specialty, you won’t want to miss these soul food hotspots:
1. Mama’s Soul Food Restaurant
Just about every search for “the best soul food in Tampa” will take you to one establishment: Mama’s Soul Food Restaurant. For more than 15 years, Mama’s Soul Food has been defining what it means to serve soul food in the Tampa area.
The restaurant’s thorough menu includes soul food staples such as catfish nuggets, Mama’s kettle chicken, fried green tomatoes, and collard greens, as well as several dessert offerings including slices of sweet potato pie and peach cobbler.
If you are looking for the best soul food in Tampa, Florida, look no further than Mama’s. More than just another dining experience, Mama’s fantastic service, welcoming atmosphere and delicious menu will leave you planning your next trip back!
2. Auntie’s Soul Food & More
Complete with fried chicken, fried shrimp, collard greens, and okra and tomatoes, the menu at Auntie’s Soul Food & More offers the opportunity to enjoy a southern dining experience on a budget.
Those looking for a fine-dining experience will want to look elsewhere. However, soul food has never been about gimmicky décor or lavish dishware, so most will find exactly what they are looking for when stopping into Auntie’s. Home-cooked meals, super friendly staff and outstanding customer service all await those ready to give Auntie’s Soul Food & More a try.
3. Al’s Finger Licking Good Soul Food
An off-shoot of Al’s Finger Licking Good Bar-B-Que, this newly opened soul food restaurant looks to soon challenge Mama’s and Auntie’s for the Tampa title.
The menu at Al’s Finger Licking Good Soul Food is complete with traditional dishes such as boiled peanuts with neckbones, fried chicken quarters and halves, and fried fish. However, Al has also added additional sides and plates to round out the restaurant’s offerings. Consider adding a side of garlic parmesan fries to your meal. Or have a slice of OMG! Cake if you have saved room for dessert.
4. Mr. B’s Southern Kitchen
The motto for Mr. B’s Southern Kitchen is, “bringing people together is sweeter than honey.” And Mr. B should know, because people have been gathering at his restaurant over steaming plates of soul food for years.
Signature entrees at Mr. B’s Southern Kitchen include chicken mac and peas, honey hot fried chicken and hot cauliflower. Admittedly, these dishes diverge slightly from soul food tradition, but the menu is also rounded out with soul food staples such as shrimp n’ grits, fried green tomatoes, and fried okra.
For a hybrid of traditional soul food and modern southern dining, be sure to stop into Mr. B’s Southern Kitchen!
5. Ladies of the Sea & Soul
Those looking for soul food plates—such as chicken over yellow rice, and fresh seafood—will be in heaven at Ladies of the Sea & Soul. This hybrid restaurant looks to give Tampa residents and visitors the best of both worlds.
Popular soul food menu items at Ladies of the Sea & Soul include oxtails, meatloaf, collard greens, and fried chicken. Seafood plates on the menu include crab cakes, garlic snow crabs and an assortment of fried fish.
Overall, the restaurant does quite a bit to offer traditional soul food and seafood plates that merge well given the establishment’s Tampa setting.
Tampa Soul Food Questions
What are the best soul food restaurants in Tampa?
The best soul food restaurants in Tampa include Mama’s Soul Food & Restaurant, Auntie’s Soul Food & More, Al’s Finger Licking Good Soul Food, Mr. B’s Southern Kitchen and Ladies of the Sea & Soul.
Where can I find oxtails in Tampa?
Oxtails are served at a few soul food restaurants in Tampa including Mama’s Soul Food & Restaurant, Auntie’s Soul Food and Ladies of the Sea & Soul
Go Out and Explore the Best Soul Food in Tampa
The term “soul food” was well established in 1962 upon the publication of Soul Food: a poem and argument for African American cuisine from Amiri Baraka. The essence of soul food is down-home cooking that combines a sense of place and tradition. When one sits down to a plate of oxtails over yellow rice, they are doing more than having a meal; they are directly tying themselves to their heritage and culture.
With representatives such as Mama’s Soul Food Restaurant, Auntie’s Soul Food & More and others, Tampa is well on its way to establishing a vibrant soul food community. Those looking for fried chicken, green tomatoes and fried okra, will find much to appreciate during their next dining experience in the city nicknamed The Big Guava.
Nicholas Sollitto is a content writer for Store Space who also enjoys rooting for the Detroit Red Wings, watching movies and hiking in the great outdoors. Ask him about his favorite Kurt Vonnegut novel or his favorite Robert Pattinson film.