Purely by accident, I discovered that Alabama native and US Navy veteran Victor Kimble, known from Food Safari’s USA episode (demonstrating cornbread and jambalaya) and his own range of spice mixes, has a restaurant in the distinctly unglamorous Gartside Street strip at Erindale. My cravings for Southern food run deep and strong, despite being as Yankee as you could possibly imagine. So this was a no-brainer.
Tucked between a swimming-pool-supplies shop and a petrol station, Soulfood Kitchen is a fairly roomy establishment of about 20 tables. The walls are festooned with photos of Kimble alongside musicians like Stevie Wonder, and a television plays blues and Motown videos. Kimble(who bears a more than passing resemblance to the late Paul Winfield) is a gracious host, chatting with diners and even serenading one birthday celebrant on the trombone (!).
My first disappointment was discovering that the in-house menu is missing key dishes featured in the online menu, including jamalaya and gumbo- classic case of “bait and switch”. This is a pet peeve of mine. Keep the website menu updated please.
First dish was a guilty pleasure of mine: chicken fingers. We were served only three, but at least they were big: juicy and crispy and probably the equivalent of five lesser fingers served elsewhere. They were pre-drizzled with ranch, instead of served with a dipping cup on the side. (Apologies for the rotten photo.)
I’m not a big seafood eater but I am a fan of good crabcakes. These were delicious: plump, spicy and crispy in equal measure with a nice zesty garnish. I felt that they were a bit small for the price though…more appetizer than main. If this was all you’d ordered you might be left a bit peckish.
The pièce de résistance: ribs. Holy Jesus on a pogo stick, what ribs.
Tender, juicy, messy, and slathered in a tangy not-too-sweet sauce, these were proud American ribs. The edges were properly caramelized and crunchy while the inners were rich and fatty-in-a-good-way without any annoying gristle or unrendered bits. If these were parboiled (a common trick to achieve tenderness in a hurry) I couldn’t tell. These were possibly even better than my previous Canberra rib benchmark, Smoque in London Circuit. The spice level was just enough for my tongue to wake up, but not so hot that it numbed. I swooned with every rich porky bite. They were served with sweet potato fries, which were actually crispy, unlike every other sweet potato fry I’ve ever eaten which was a limp and soggy wannabe to a real potato fry. These were no compromise at all, and even sweet potato-hating Mr S-P gave them a thumbs-up. The cornbread was tasty, although $6 is grotesque for one desultory 3cm muffin.