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REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
June 7, 2012 Downtown Soul is located on First Street in downtown Roanoke.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
June 7, 2012 Curry and jerk chicken, collard greens and beans and rice are on the menu at Downtown Soul in downtown Roanoke.
Four wineglasses with different colors of wine
Friday, March 29, 2013
Downtown Soul, which specializes in soul food and Caribbean fare, is one of the newest additions to the Roanoke restaurant scene. This family business opened in October and aims to provide each customer with a memorable dining experience. Owned by siblings James Ragland and Jaquetta Turner and their aunt, Maxine Ragland, the restaurant operates according to the motto “we serve everything just the way you like it.”
Situated at 304 First St. S.W., this quaint location was buzzing with business during each of my visits. The interior is very simple, with several tables and chairs for those who may want to watch the day’s news on flat screens mounted on the walls. When weather permits, outdoor seating is available .
Entrees are all prepared in bulk by Maxine and are on display in a glass-covered hot food bar so diners can see exactly what they are ordering. The kitchen staff is also observable from the front counter.
I’ve visited this restaurant several times . Diners have the option of choosing some of the house specialties, such as fried chicken with two sides ($6.49 lunch special), jerk chicken ($7.49 lunch special) and curry goat ($6.49 lunch special). Dinner portions are slightly higher in price.
There are also standard offerings such as cheeseburgers ($3.69), chef salad ($5.99) and a six-inch Philly cheese steak ($4.79). Those with a sweet tooth can choose from several flavors of hand-dipped Hershey’s ice cream, milk shakes and smoothies.
On my first visit, I decided on an entrée of curry goat with sides of macaroni and cheese and a mixture of rice and peas ($8.49). After paying, I quickly carried my meal to an open table and began to feast.
The steaming hot curry goat was well-seasoned, tender and packed with flavor, reminiscent of the same dish I had while visiting the Bahamas. The macaroni and cheese was flavorful, cheesy and very moist, which is the way I like it. The fluffy rice and peas provided the perfect vessel for the curry goat, which was piled on top.
On my next visit, I tried the fried chicken with sides of french fries and coleslaw ($6.49). My two chicken thighs were fried to a golden, crunchy brown with a tender and moist interior. It was perfectly seasoned — I did not have to add salt or pepper to the chicken. The coleslaw was creamy and the fries were nicely prepared.
My third visit led me to try the oxtails ($8.49), which I’ve prepared many times for my family. The key to great oxtails is cooking them low and slow for several hours in a rich beef broth, creating a succulent gravy and fall-off-the-bone meat. For my sides, I ordered a double portion of the rice and peas, which provided a base for the oxtails and gravy. My first bite delivered a delightful and tender meat covered in gravy that married beautifully with the rice and peas.
Downtown Soul serves a full breakfast menu from 7 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. For my early morning visit, I decided to try bacon, egg and cheese on a sandwich roll ($3.49) . The made-to-order sandwich was ready in less than 5 minutes, but I found the oversized roll to be too large for a traditional breakfast sandwich. I would rather have had more bacon and less roll, so next time I will opt for a breakfast sandwich on toast.
The bottom line
The kitchen staff needs more organization and teamwork during peak business hours. On the flip side, if you are craving a taste of the Caribbean or traditional soul food, make your way to Downtown Soul. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the cuisine.
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