Soul Food in Madison: is it from the Soul?

People not from here often look to Badger-Madisonians for advice on where to get the best food. In addition to wanting it to be inexpensive, they expect that it exceeds their standards for taste, presentation, and resemble somebody’s family member’s cooking. Now that the holidays are here, people are looking for something a little more than the usual slice of pizza or meal from the dining hall. And there’s nothing better than some good ole’ fashioned soul food. There are two main places that serve it that people head to; Sweet Tea at the Fountain and McGee’s Chicken.

Sweet Tea at the Fountain is located on State Street closer to the capital and right between the Fountain and Ian’s. Owned by Candace Flowers, this restaurant serves Southern comfort food on a very specific schedule, opening at three in the afternoon on weekdays and staying open as late as 2:30 in the morning on Fridays.

The one thing to really try when you visit though is the sweet tea, which is actually just sweet tea. The menu is rather simple but changes a bit every day, two entrees and five side dishes. On one day, the entrees can be fried chicken and catfish, or fried tilapia and chicken etouffee. The sides are traditional to southern comfort food, red beans and rice, macaroni and cheese, greens, rice, and so on. To make a meal, choose a main dish and three sides plus a corn muffin for $10 or have a lunch consisting of a main and a side for $5. While some find the food below average, you have to give the chef props for making everything from scratch every day.

“I would definitely go back for the sweet tea, but sometimes it wasn’t sweet enough. Sometimes the chicken or fish was good, but sometimes it would just be bones,” first-year Elijah Holmes said.

McGee’s Chicken on 1920 Park Street (where the old Taco Bell used to be) is quite a travel, but if you hop on the bus with a couple of friends it’ll be a great time. McGee’s is owned by Esperdell McGee, a pastor at Miracles of Life Outreach Ministries. Featured in Black Restaurant Week often, they definitely have the support of the Madison community. “We try to keep a good clean place and a place where people be comfortable,” McGee commented on BRW.

McGee’s serves nearly anything associated with soul food: fried chicken, fried catfish, whole chickens, rib tips, macaroni and cheese, greens, candied yams, cornbread. They also serve other items like Philly-style cheesesteak, gyros, fried okra, French fries that can be topped with a plethora of things, hamburgers and anything else you can think of. What makes McGee’s so special is that you can’t get these kinds of foods anywhere else in Madison. There is a short supply of black-owned restaurants that feature food that you can find down south or in your grandmother’s kitchen.

“You gotta get the six-piece chicken wing with lemon pepper and mild sauce, and it tastes just like Chicago,” first-year Brittany Robbins said.

Both are good, but it really depends on the day and the mood. McGee’s has more options and you can tell there’s love coming out of the kitchen. You can mix and match a number of different entrees and sides and never be disappointed. Sweet Tea is good when you want some soul food and don’t want to go all the way down to Park Street, and are feeling up for a surprise. Head on down to either restaurant and support the local black businesses.

Enjoyiana Nururdin is an Associate Producer at Blue Chalk. She is a recent graduate of Columbia Journalism School, Class of 2022, where she obtained her Master of Arts in Politics. Enjoyiana’s Master’s Thesis focused on the role mutual aid networks played in eliminating food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic in neighborhoods across New York City. Her areas of interest include political theory, race, Black American history, culinary and human interest storytelling. Prior to Blue Chalk, she has worked with the CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell, NBC’s Weekend Today Show, and Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. A Wisconsin native, Enjoyiana is also a University of Wisconsin-Madison alumna, Class of 2021, where she pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Reporting from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She enjoys spending time in nature, listening to vinyl records, reading, creating comfort food recipes, and designing her life on Pinterest.

0 comments on “Soul Food in Madison: is it from the Soul?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: