Food holds a prominent position within numerous cultures, serving as a cornerstone of their identity. Across California, an abundance of talented chefs and exceptional restaurants showcase a diverse array of soulful cuisine, captivating the palates of adventurous travellers. Prepare to indulge in a tantalizing culinary journey, where an assortment of mouthwatering dishes awaits, ranging from delectable homemade BBQ to luscious peach pie. So, arm yourself with a fork and prepare to savour the delectable delights that lie ahead.

The Bantam

The Bantam Kitchen & Cooler in Redding puts a contemporary spin on Southern comfort food with items like catfish po’boy, a pimiento cheeseburger on a brioche bun, and pork chops and waffles. The result is mouthwatering Southern cuisine that goes down best with a cold brew. 

Squeeze Your Soul at Thelma’s Good Eats

 For classic Southern eats like fried chicken, mac and cheese, and greens, this family-run eatery in Sacramento uses Grandma’s recipes that will make you feel like you have taken a trip to the South. 

Town Fare Café

In Oakland, Chef Michele McQueen is fusing Southern soul food with the food history of other cultures that comprise Oakland’s diverse population. Known for her sweet potato waffles and Southern fried chicken, the Town Fare Café attracts A-listers like Stephen Curry and San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed. Chef McQueen is a favourite Food Network guest with appearances on “Guy’s Grocery Games” and “Grill It with Bobby Flay”.

Lois the Pie Queen

For more than 50 years, Lois the Pie Queen has tempted taste buds with her fresh pies. As one of nine children, Lois grew up baking pies for fundraisers for her father’s church. After she married, she and her husband opened their first restaurant in Berkeley. Today, the iconic pie shop is run by Lois’ son in Oakland and offers a full menu of Southern staples and its famous pies. 

Saucy Mama’s Jook Joint

For the flavour of Bourbon Street, follow the sounds of jazz and Motown wafting out of Saucy Mama’s Jook Joint in Sonoma County. Chef-owner Yvette Bidegain’s parents moved to California in the 1950s and brought with them the recipes of Mississippi. Today they form the backbone of a menu that features buttermilk fried chicken, BBQ ribs and collard greens. 

Doll’s Kitchen

For over 30 years, Chef Gloria Hall has been frying up soul food based on the cooking style and recipes she learned from her Southern parents. Today, Doll’s Kitchen in Fresno is known for its traditional Southern eats and famous BBQ sauce (available to take home as a souvenir). 

Soul Bites

Opened in 2022, Soul Bites in Santa Barbara is shaking up soul food with many vegan options like vegan crab cakes, soul sandwiches and vegan sides. The eatery also offers unique spins on classic dishes like shrimp and grits with crab gravy and a hot cracklin’ mac and cheese. Soul Bites lets diners pair dishes with local beer, wine, CBD water and other immunity drinks. The restaurant also features live music and comedy.

Brown’s BBQ and Soul Food

If you are looking for a hole-in-the-wall hidden gem, look no further than Brown’s BBQ and Soul Food in Palm Springs. This small mom-and-pop shop serves up all the classic Southern BBQ meats and sides. With just four tables, get there early to snag your spot. 

Queens of Cobbler

Building on her parents’ success in Phoenix with the cobblers at their restaurant, Jordan Davis decided to continue the tradition of opening Queens of Cobbler in San Jacinto in 2021. The small bakery has grown a loyal following with its peach, mixed berry, blackberry and apple caramel cobblers. 

Gourmet Cobbler Factory

After working 30 years for Disney, Clifton Powell was ready for his second act. From delighting visitors at the happiest place on earth, to delighting their tastebuds with The Gourmet Cobbler in Pasadena, Powell is all about making people happy. And his family’s secret cobbler recipe does just that. In addition to its famous dessert, the restaurant now offers Southern staple main dishes.

Georgia’s Restaurant

Owner Gretchen Shoemaker learned to cook Southern classics side-by-side with her Grandma. Today at Georgia’s in Anaheim, she features dishes like Louisiana tilapia and shrimp, jambalaya St. Louis BBQ ribs and her signature chicken and waffles. 

StreetCar Merchants

San Diego’s StreetCar Merchants team serves up three different soul food flavours throughout the city. At StreetCar Merchants in North Park, fried chicken and Nashville hot chicken and waffles are the stars. Next, hit up SuckerFree in the Gaslamp Quarter for hearty Southern dishes in a lively atmosphere, and then head to Shotcaller in the Southeast for soul rolls, tacos and loaded tots. 

Chef Budda Blasian Soul Food Truck Get ready to tickle your tastebuds at Chef Budda Blasian Soul Food Truck, where classic soul food dishes get paired alongside Asian staples like chicken egg rolls. The truck makes its way throughout the city, but foodies can find the weekly schedule on its website.