Saturday September 9th, 2017 was a beautiful late-summer day. It was finally starting to cool off a bit. We were heading to Annapolis for brunch at Soul restaurant (click here to see their complete listing in our Food & Drink Business Directory) followed by a wine tasting at Great Frogs Winery. This was to be our first visit to both places.
Soul is located in the Village Greens of Annapolis retail center. It is in the Forest Drive corridor on the Bay Ridge Peninsula, in a modern (what looks to be fairly new) low-rise development of mixed retail and town homes, west of downtown Annapolis. There are dentists, a hardware store, pharmacies, and a lot of other restaurants in the neighborhood. A number of them have grouped together, calling themselves SOFO or “south forest.”
Setting the scene
The public-area of the restaurant is L-shaped. We arrived about 12:15 PM (~75 minutes after they opened) and entered at one end of their long bar, where a patron or two was dining. We were walked the length of the bar, and then took a 90° turn to the right into the dining room. With large windows on three walls, the area was brightly lit. We were offered the option of eating outdoors, but it was a bit windy, so we opted for indoors.
Chef Marco Pierre White: ‘Mother Nature is the true artist and our job as cooks is to allow her to shine.’
The waiter seated us at a table by floor-to-ceiling windows at the far end of the room. In the corner at the opposite end of the room, a sole patron dined at a banquette. Otherwise, the place was empty. The waiter took our order for coffees and water, and left us to peruse our menus. The lone diner soon left, but other folks gradually filled-in some tables over the next hour.
As I sat down, I had to brush some crumbs off my chair. Our table and those around us looked clean and nicely set. But as we looked around, we noticed the floor was littered with crud (probably from the night before, given the carrot stick next to us looked pretty shriveled up). That definitely didn’t make for an appealing dining environment.
Their coffee was great — I’d go back just for that!
What's for brunch
The waiter returned with our drinks. Their coffee was great — I’d go back just for that! We then placed our food order and sat back to wait. The wait wasn’t overly long, but it was long enough for me to finish my coffee. Unfortunately, our waiter was also helping folks sitting outside, at the far end of the building, so wasn’t paying us a lot of attention. I eventually managed to flag down one of his colleagues, who got him to bring me another cup.
The Soul restaurant menu is in two columns, with two sections to each column: Morning Food, Sides, Lunch Stuff, and Flatbreads (the last one was the only section we didn’t try). At the bottom of the right-hand column was an inspiring quote from Chef Marco Pierre White (“dubbed the first celebrity chef, and the enfant terrible of the UK restaurant scene”): “Mother Nature is the true artist and our job as cooks is to allow her to shine.”
We ordered two sides to share:
- Home Fries with Old Bay seasoning, peppers, and onions.
- Cornbread with sweet-pepper jam. The waiter warned us the cornbread is made from scratch and might take a little while, but we said that’d be fine.
When they came, the portions were both of a good size. The home fries were hot and tasty with a good texture. The ramekin of ketchup was sitting atop them; whenever I see that, I hope somebody made sure to clean the bottom really well.
The waiter warned us that the iron skillet holding the cornbread was very hot and we should be careful not to touch it. The bread was also quite hot, and had a nice crusty exterior. The inside was dry and crumbly. The sweet-pepper jam was an excellent accompaniment, but the consistency was more like a sauce than a jam.
Unless a shrimp dish is meant to be eaten with fingers, there’s no point in leaving the tails on.
Cindy’s main course
My wife ordered shrimp & grits from the “Lunch Stuff” section of the menu. The grits were good, as was the sauce. The andouille sausage were well-spiced, and the shrimp were nicely cooked. But we had two complaints about the dish: 1. There were only three shrimp on the plate, which seemed a bit miserly; and 2. They left the darn tails on the shrimp! That is one of my pet peeves (Cindy’s, too) — I’ve written about it before, and I’m sure I’ll do so again. Unless a shrimp dish is meant to be eaten with fingers, there’s no point in leaving the tails on. They just make extra work for the diner.
My main course
From the “Morning Food” section of the menu, I ordered Eggs de la Soul. The menu describes it as scrambled eggs with chunky bacon, grits, and grilled toast. The grits tasted great: perfectly cooked, moist, soft, and fluffy; the scallions on top were a very nice touch. The thick chunks of bacon were great with both the grits and eggs. From the photo, you can see the toast is thin-slices of crusty baguette, nicely crisped.
Again, though, we had two complaints (yes, we share our food, so we can both taste what’s going on). 1. There was no butter or jam for the toast. Yes, you can eat it with some grits or eggs on it, but some preserves, apple butter, or something else would have been nice to have; and 2. The grits, and especially the eggs, could both have used some salt and pepper, but none was provided. When a restaurant doesn’t put salt and pepper out on its tables, it usually means the Chef is so confident in his/her ability to season the food correctly that you won’t need to add salt and pepper. So, I figured I’d try things as-presented.
A couple of folks who were seated near us after we were nearly done with our meal told their waiter they’d been there the day before. One of the first things they did was to order some butter, salt, and pepper. In a little while, he showed-up with salt-and-pepper shakers on a small tray, along with a ramekin of butter.
After my meal, I wish I’d asked for some salt and pepper, too. I also should have asked for butter for my toast.
Soul restaurant conclusion
Overall, the food was quite tasty and well prepared. The various niggles I pointed out were not that big a deal, though I’d really like to see cleaner floors, whether they were dirty from that morning or the night before. As we left, Chef Dave Pow was chatting with someone by the door, and he kindly held it for us as we departed. We look forward to seeing him and his food again. ♦