Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism
FAYETTEVILLE — Despite the name, Soul is not a classic soul-food restaurant, nor is it intended to be. We suggested “upscale soul” as a definition. Steven Brooks, who is the executive chef and one of the owners, says his restaurant deals in “international eclectic cuisine with strong Southern influences.”
For example: One in our party had hickory smoked pork tenderloin medallions — very good — with fried okra and wasabi mashed potatoes. Another had the herb-and-toasted-walnut-encrusted breast of chicken — also very good — with sweet potato hash and roasted vegetables. The sweet potato hash, made with bacon and onion, was new to us, and got mixed reviews from our party. It may take some getting used to.
On the other hand, the sweet potato pie — a soul food staple — was loved at first bite, and evidently that's a common reaction. Brooks said the pie won a Northwest Arkansas dessert contest held to raise money for charity.
As Sunday is good for your soul, Soul is good for Sunday. Soul's brunch is known for its Stackers — made to order scrambled eggs layered with, for example, andouille sausage, potatoes and Hollandaise. Our experience was that the Stackers were a standout, but if you like your eggs flatter, the Eggs Bennie were superb, poached perfectly, the Hollandaise light and rich at the same time, the muffin homemade. Soul's hashed browns are little cubes of deeply fried potatoes, delicious. A warning: At Soul, pepper is to the Bloody Marys as sugar is to very sweet tea. The drinks are made to suit, however, so if you like your Mary a little less bitter, say so.
Brooks, who grew up in Alabama, has been a chef in Northwest Arkansas since 2000, but Soul is his first experience with ownership. One of his partners is Case Dighero, who has been involved in the Northwest Arkansas culinary community, especially the Dickson Street branch, since the 1990s. Dighero works at Soul with Brooks. The third owner is Jim Smith, a Fayetteville lawyer.
The restaurant opened Oct. 2. Business has been good, Brooks said, despite Soul's being some distance from Dickson Street, the eating-and-drinking core of Fayetteville. It doesn't hurt that Brooks and Dighero have a twice-a-week cooking show on local cable television.
“Fresh field greens with soul-seasoned grilled chicken” is one of the salads on the menu. “Stuffed deep South shrimp wrapped in Arkansas bacon” is an appetizer. But if you prefer “Traditional Chicken Kiev,” you can get that too.
Soul has a fairly extensive wine list, a number of imported and domestic beers and a whole bunch of specialty martinis and other cocktails. It's a pretty place, and we found the lounge area, which has a few booths for diners around the walls, particularly comfortable. Most of the diners are at tables in the main room. It's a friendly place, too. Both Brooks and Dighero stopped by our booth at different times to chat, and they didn't know we were reviewers.
Soul Restaurant and Lounge
3878 N. Crossover Road
Not a traditional “soul food” place, but if you want a pork chop, fried okra and sweet potato pie, you can get it.
Lunch from 11 to 2 Tuesday through Friday. Dinner 5 to 10 Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 11 Friday and Saturday. Brunch 10:30 to 2 Sunday.
Don't expect traditional soul food prices, either. A couple of the entrees for our party were $30 apiece. There's a full bar, offering a lot of “specialty” drinks in addition to the usual. Credit cards are accepted.