The first time I encountered the term “soul food,” I was in the sixth grade. Our Spanish class was on the way to a Salvadorian restaurant to practice ordering in Spanish, and the storefront next to our destination read “SOUL FOOD” in all caps.
That’s weird, I thought. It must be one of those psychic places that looks into your soul with food.
For the next few years of my life, I avoided soul food in the same manner that I avoid places that do tarot card readings.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized it may not have been what I thought it was. As a college freshman, I tried to quietly slip into the know by exploring the soul food of Baltimore hoping my embarrassing preconception of it would stay concealed. It’s food for the soul. Got it.
A few days ago, I decided to hit up Taste This, a Hamilton-Lauraville soul food restaurant opened up by chefs Craig Curbean and Dante Davis with a second location near campus in Charles Village. Look for the bright red awning reading “preparing good food for good people”; you can’t miss it at the intersection of St. Paul and 25th.
February is Black History Month, so why not honor it in part by visiting a black-owned Baltimore business? Taste This slings Southern cooking in a comfortable space for maximum accessibility.
The system is simple: walk in, order, wait and get food. Through the steamy glass, I could make out giant pans of sides hot held in a steam bath.
On the left is the entrance to the moderately sized dining area, playing clips of Tyson Fury’s recent victory over Deontay Wilder.
The staff shows you your order before they hand it to you. It’s probably just to confirm that it’s yours, but it’s so damn satisfying to look across the counter at the food that you will soon be devouring and nod approvingly.
It comes in a black plastic food box with napkins and a prepackaged utensil pouch, smelling like heaven.
We ordered two platters to share between two people, and it ended up being a hefty amount of food for one meal. The fried chicken platter featured four salt and pepper chicken wings with collard greens and mac and cheese, and the pork rib platter came with green beans and garlic mashed potatoes. Both proteins were served atop soft billowy yellow rice.
The food here is indulgence at its most elemental form. It’s the creamy, the crispy, the tender and juicy and the casual.
The fried chicken wings had a nice light crisp on the exterior and tender juicy flesh on the interior that may have benefitted from some brine or marinade. The ribs were fall-off-the-bone and slathered in a sweet and slightly tangy barbecue sauce.
The mashed potatoes, while carrying a nice garlicky aroma and creamy texture, suffered from a lack of salt.
Similarly, the under-salted mac and cheese was mushy and a bit drab without the necessary sprinkling of salt from the utensil pouch.
My favorite part was the braised collard greens. Cooked until soft, seasoned well and aromatic, these greens had very little of the characteristic glucosinolate bitterness that cruciferous vegetables tend to carry. They went down easy after a bite of fried chicken or with some rice. Absolutely phenomenal.
Overall, I liked it. It’s unpretentious and is all about the simple pleasures. Plus, it left me in a food comatose state not unlike the feeling of waking up in the morning and not wanting to leave the comfort of my bed.
Located at the intersection of St. Paul and 25th, Taste This is easily accessible by Blue Jay Shuttle or JHMI or by foot. With a bill at the $10 price point, I felt satisfied with how I used my money.