jaden's diner photo by virginia harold

Tour 8 great St. Louis soul food spots

Soul food is the most comforting of comfort foods, from fried chicken to mac and cheese. It’s easy to forget that so many of these feel-good favorites were actually forged in slavery, when Black Americans used discarded or ignored ingredients like pig feet, oxtail and fibrous greens to create a cuisine that transcends the sum of its humble parts. The traditions and flavors of this beloved food continue to resonate with diners today. Soul food has been subjected to many riffs, spins and permutations over the years, but St. Louis is still rich with local eateries that continue to put forth the real deal.

Brother’s Diner
1508 Whittier St., St. Louis, 314.533.2022
Once Brother’s is on your radar, you won’t soon forget it. Just off Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, the catfish here is flaky and utilizes a cornmeal batter for a lighter texture. The tripe is another standout – not too tough or funky – and the Brother’s wings, crispy and lightly seasoned, will ruin chain chicken places for you. There is some inside seating available, but takeout is the norm.

a customer orders at brother’s diner // photo by virginia harold

Gourmet Soul
1620 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314.339.5658, gourmetsoul.com
Around the corner from the hustle and bustle of City Museum and Washington Avenue, it’s easy to miss Gourmet Soul’s blue awning, but this humble eatery is worth keeping an eye out for. More of a greatest-hits place, there aren’t any off-cuts here. The focus is on classics from chicken wings to smothered pork chops to some stellar fried catfish – cut into tenders for a superlative ratio of fish to crispy cornmeal breading. But the sides are the real standout, including standbys like mac and cheese, greens and a classic, ultra moist cornbread dressing. Curbside only.

H&M Best Fried Fish & Chicken
2903 Chippewa St., St. Louis, 314.664.2091
Cruising down Chippewa, H&M is a bright red and yellow landmark. Those who’ve been don’t need a fancy color scheme to remember the location. Do yourself a favor and walk up to the window to order a portion of the batter-fried catfish: it’s a melt-in-your-mouth, fall-apart-in-your-hand crazy good, and the warm peach cobbler will take you back to Grandma’s table. Carryout and delivery are available every day but Saturday, so plan your week accordingly. Curbside only.

Jaden’s Diner
4251 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, St. Louis, 314.534.3512, Facebook: Jaden’s Diner
Jaden’s serves up its fare cafeteria-style, and the room has panache to spare. Takeout is available, but it’s best to enjoy the ambience from the President Obama shrine at the door to the glitter scattered across the ceiling like so many constellations. Pull up a chair at one of the long, banquet-style tables and watch the big-screen TV in the back while noshing on a plate of neck bones with a side of black-eyed peas and mashed potatoes. The meat falls off the bone with virtually no assistance. Curbside only.

Mom’s Soul Food Kitchen & Catering
1507 Goodfellow Blvd., St. Louis, 314.389.0916; 4909 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314.328.1333, Facebook: Mom’s Soul Food Kitchen
This buffet-style restaurant offers carryout and delivery, or you can kick back in the cheery, spacious, bright orange dining room and dig in. The menu features some really good tripe, oxtail and several types of wings, including a standout Buffalo-style version. As for sides, the greens at Mom’s are sumptuous and rife with chunks of unctuous pork. Plenty of daily specials abound, and early risers can hit up the extensive breakfast menu starting at 7 a.m. It’s no wonder a second location recently opened on Delmar Boulevard. Curbside only.

catfish at brother’s diner // photo by virginia harold

Son-Ja’s Soul Food
9863 Edgefield Drive, St. Louis, 314.869.1388
Situated in an aging strip mall between a barbershop, a beauty supply place and a chop suey joint, this carryout-and catering-only spot is worth the extra effort of seeking out. The small size belies the expansive menu, which includes everything from baked meatloaf to barbecue ribs. Fans of off-cuts will appreciate the snoot here – crispy and warm, it’s similar in flavor and texture to pork rinds, served with a sweet barbecue sauce. For sides, it’s hard to go wrong with the candied yams – they taste just like Thanksgiving.

Mother’s Fish
2738 N. Grand Ave., St. Louis, 314.833.4950; 6 S. Central Ave., Clayton, 314.499.7074; Facebook: Mother’s Fish
Mother’s has been a St. Louis fixture since the 1980s. Though the original on Spring Avenue and Olive Street closed, the family has opened four other locations. The oldest, and my Mother’s of choice, on the corner of North Grand and St. Louis avenues is the height of minimalism – just a few laminated photos of menu items on the walls and a vending machine standing in the corner. Patrons place orders by ringing a bell and talking to the folks through a Plexiglas window. Despite this barrier, the service is friendly and personal. As expected, fish is the thing here. Try the fried catfish, mild and flaky, with the perfect ratio of batter to fish. Curbside only.

You Gotta Eat Here
2812 N. Grand Ave., St. Louis, 314.371.3700, Facebook: You Gotta Eat Here
A true neighborhood joint, there’s plenty of seating here under the watchful gaze of a vintage Michael Jackson poster and blown-up family photos. You gotta get the tripe sandwich: two large pieces of tripe, not too chewy or musky, fried golden brown and placed between a couple slabs of good ol’ white bread along with pickles, onion and mustard. No pretense, no messing around, just good, solid food for cheap served in a classic red basket with fries.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in October 2017. It has been updated to include current, temporary changes in service due to the coronavirus.