Best Soul Food in Minneapolis

Believe it: There’s good soul food to be had in Minneapolis once again.

Only a few years ago, Minneapolis had a lively soul food scene as Lucille’s Kitchen, the king and standard-bearer on the North Side, did battle with Sallie’s, on Lake Street, an up-and-comer with fine scratch-cooking skills. But then Sallie’s closed, their building burned to the ground. Lucille’s closed too, and soon the answer as to who had the best soul food in Minneapolis was a resounding: No one. Not one single person. But that was yesterday! Or at least a month ago. I stopped in last night to Derrick’s Southern Style, the new restaurant on the corner of Chicago and 38th Street in South Minneapolis, and I was terrifically impressed.

Not by the décor, mind you: The place is barely changed from the Mexican restaurant it held not too long ago. Bent metal chairs, a drop-tile ceiling, and plain Formica tables lend little charm. And not by the wine and beer list: There is none. But there is sweet tea, which you never, ever see at Minneapolis restaurants, and a whole lot of soul food that’s worth your time.

First off: The wings, and the fried chicken! Big, heavy, meaty wings are seasoned and fried so that the skin is shatteringly crisp and just as salty and delectable as can be. Chicken pieces are just as good–as far as I know, as of today, the only fried chicken worth writing about in Minneapolis is to be found here at Derrick’s, or possibly at the Loring Café on Loring Park, but that’s a very different bird with a sweeter, cakier, more elaborate batter. I think I prefer Derrick’s–it’s simpler and more savory. If you’re a fried chicken fanatic, you may have to conduct a taste-off yourself to find your personal favorite. It’s a worthwhile taste-off.

I tried a bunch of the barbecue options at Derrick’s and found them all a bit sweet for my taste: The barbecued meat-loaf was fascinating, smoky, and tender, and crowned with a layer of well-cooked barbecue sauce–like the lid of concentrated ketchup you find on some meatloaves–but it was very sweet. Pork ribs were good and fabulously tender, though again, sweet for my taste. That said, I was completely blown away by the excellence of the classic soul-food sides: The collard greens were beautiful, made with fat chunks of barbecued pork and as savory and silky as could be. The black-eyed peas were heavenly, smooth as silk and popping like caviar in the mouth, but given substance with little bits and strands of smoked pork. I think they were the best black-eyed peas I’ve had in my life. I don’t say this lightly. Hot water cornbread was interesting—here a very creamy, fine-grained cornmeal pancake was fried till crisp and chewy.

I’m looking forward to trying the rest of the menu; after seeing the magic that kitchen wrought with fried chicken, I’m guessing the catfish is another winner. The desserts I tried were excellent—a truly homemade, chewy, and real pecan pie and a beautiful creamy, extravagantly spiced sweet-potato pie. And that’s it!

Derrick’s Southern Style is not much to look at, but the fried chicken, greens, black-eyed peas, and homemade pies were out of this world, and easily the best in Minneapolis today. If you care, now you know. Especially if you care about black-eyed peas, consider your life altered for the better.

Derrick’s Southern Style
3801 Chicago Ave S.