By Zach Chouteau
The ‘Rich Life’ segment dropped by the recently opened New Soul Cafe on Wednesday and discovered a casual and compelling eatery focused on tasty Southern flavors.
The cozy new café at 1305 Carlson embodies the personality of its owner and chef, Donnell ‘Rickey’ Jones, a born-and-bred Richmond resident who is also the senior pastor for New Direction Ministries. While Jones spent about 20 years in the South, he credits his mom with teaching him all his cooking skills—and you can definitely taste the love in the café’s array of authentic soul food.
“My family has always pushed me to sell my food,” says the gregarious Jones, who personally welcomes every customer with a heartfelt greeting. “I’ve been cooking my whole life and do all my own seasoning.”
Popular staples at New Soul Cafe include fried chicken, red beans and rice, mac and cheese, candied yams and collard greens. This reporter had the chance to try a delicious fried fish sandwich, along with perfectly done French fries and ‘hot-water’ cornbread, and was definitely won over. A Southern sweet tea also hit the spot, refreshing with just a hint of spiciness.
“We don’t serve Arnold Palmers here, we serve Tiger Woods,” jokes the affable owner.
Jones says the new eatery has seen a gradual uptick in business since its March 24 debut, including a growing contingency of regular customers. He also shared plans to showcase diverse new flavors on a monthly basis moving forward, including ‘soulful’ takes on everything from Italian fare to Caribbean cooking.
In addition to his ministry work, Jones is a community organizer and coordinator for Richmond Ceasefire, a local organization committed to reducing gun violence. His busy schedule limits the New Soul Cafe’s opening hours to Wednesday through Saturday from 11am to 7 p.m., but the recent entry into the local foodscape is worth planning a stop around. This reporter is planning to return on a Friday in particular, when one of the house specialties—seafood gumbo—is on the menu.
You can find out a bit more at the New Soul Cafe’s Facebook page.