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Tacoma has Soul - with flair for Cuban and Puerto Rican cuisine

Latin American and soul food restaurant opens in the Proctor District

Soul channels the Southern fried chicken gods. Photo credit: Adrienne Kuehl

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The Proctor District of Tacoma is now home to Soul, a Latin American and soul food restaurant, which opened mid-August. Housed in the former Old House Café, Soul is bringing a much-appreciated underrepresented cuisine in the area. It is not just for lunch and dinner, either. Locals will be happy to have another breakfast option in the area.

The restaurant is owned by Jennifer Zaskorksi and Natural Allah, who are not newcomers to the restaurant business. They also own Vinum Coffee and Wine Lounge downtown Tacoma. The chef of Soul is Maria Torres, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate.

Diners who had been to the space's previous restaurants will remember having to walk up the stairs to enter the dining room. It is no different now, but entering the space for the first time, it has a different feel from what it once was. The dining room is light and bright, with colorful accents offsetting the white tablecloths.

With a quick peek at the menu, it becomes clear that Soul is unlike any other restaurant in Tacoma. "The menu is literally half Latin American and half soul food," says Zaskorski. "Natural and I are both New Yorkers who are used to eating these foods and being able to easily find them on every block."

On a recent trip in for dinner, the food did not disappoint. The Southern fried chicken ($14), served with a choice of wings or thighs and two sides, was lightly coated in a crisp and flavorful coating and was some of the best fried chicken I've tried. The collard greens were chocked full of smoked turkey and the sweet potatoes were ... well, let's just say next time I'll be ordering a side of them. Think of the sweet potatoes you serve on Thanksgiving, only without the marshmallow - big chunks of tender spiced sweet potatoes. The perfect accompaniment to any item on the menu.

The fried okra ($9), coated in the same light batter as the fried chicken, was not greasy and a great way to start the meal, served with a hot sauce for dipping. I am a sucker for jambalaya ($15) and the version at Soul was different than any I have tried to date. The rice - topped with chicken, shrimp and sausage - seemed overly simple at first, but with each bite became more complex in the spices I tasted. The one miss for me was the mofongo, fried plantains crushed with garlic and pork rinds, a traditional Puerto Rican dish, which was quite oily.

Soul's weekend breakfast looks equally appetizing. "We use Pernil (Puerto Rican pork shoulder) in our breakfast dishes, as well as rum-marinated rib eye in our steak and eggs," said Zaskorski. "We offer southern shrimp and grits and our soul food style Huevos Rancheros, where we use red beans instead of refried beans and cheese garlic grits instead of traditional rice."

The food is not the only thing that stands out in the neighborhood. Soul offers a daily happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. and all day Monday that gets diners 20 percent off of their entire bill. That's reason enough to get in for an early dinner and experience some of their motto, "A bite from the heart".

SOUL, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, 2717 N. Proctor St., Tacoma, 253.761.7685

LINK: South Sound Restaurant Guide

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