Is Soul Daddy America's Next Great Restaurant? We ate at the new MOA outpost to find out

Categories: Celebrity Dish
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Soul Daddy
Jamawn Woods pitching his restaurant concept.
The final episode of NBC's "America's Next Great Restaurant" aired last night, showing Jamawn Woods of Soul Daddy beating out meatballs (Brooklyn Meatball Co.) and Indian food (Spice Coast) to have his concept realized. An unemployed father of three and self-taught cook, Woods went from selling his wings and waffles out of his home to becoming an owner-operator of a three-restaurant chain.

Those restaurants--at South Street Seaport in New York City, the Hollywood & HIghland Center in Los Angeles, and the Mall of America in Bloomington--opened today. The Hot Dish hit the MOA location (#344 South, third floor between Tony Roma's and Noodles) to check out Wood's "lighter" approach to traditional soul. Here's what we found:

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Soul Daddy exterior, with faux patio seating.
Fans lined up dozens deep outside Soul Daddy before its doors opened at 11 a.m., calling friends and posting Facebook statuses as they waited. A woman from Illinois desperately seeking a Soul Daddy t-shirt left her contact information with the manager in the hopes of purchasing one later.
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Lining up at the Soul Daddy counter.
Soul Daddy's first impression is of being a Southern-style Chipotle, due to some combination of its interior design, cafeteria-line service, and rustic menu font. The interior has an urban/industrial aesthetic (concrete floors, utilitarian lighting, long wooden tabletops), but it's chic and welcoming.
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Fans commemorating their meals with camera phone snaps.
The restaurant offers a simple menu of entrees and sides served a la carte, or as a full meal (entree with two sides and bread) priced around $10. Entrees include country-style ribs, baked herb chicken (Woods's healthier alternative to his original fried chicken), roasted pork, and pulled pork sandwiches. Sides include the traditional collard greens and cheese grits, plus several salads, including black-eyed pea, sweet potato, and green beans. The biscuits are made with whole wheat flour and the cornbread comes in waffle form. And, of course, there's the southern staple, sweet tea, on tap.


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