Soul food is a difficult cuisine to describe and, out here in the exurbs, it’s even more difficult to find.
The closest thing I’ve found is in suburban Hillside, a cafeteria-style place called Priscilla’s, and there are numerous spots in the city, too. But now right here in Kendall County, in an Oswego strip mall, is real, genuine soul food, and it is the real deal.
Kiss My Dish Soul Food Kitchen just opened in November and it’s already attracting crowds and great reviews. From traditional favorites like catfish bites, fried green tomatoes and shrimp ‘n’ grits, to selections you don’t expect to find in a soul food restaurant, like the Polish sausage, the menu is packed with variety.
I picked a weeknight to visit the restaurant, so it was quiet at first, but quickly filled up with hungry customers.
I rarely order fried chicken at restaurants, mostly because it’s so easy to get bad fried chicken – it’s dry or it’s too greasy or there isn’t any flavor. But I took a chance on Kiss My Dish’s “Golden Fried Chicken.” It was a fried half chicken with two sides. I picked their baked mac and cheese and red beans and rice. It was a good deal at $15.
The server cautioned that it could take some extra time, but I was in no hurry as I sipped my glass of cool lemonade and took in the restaurant’s interior. After all, good soul food takes some time; I wasn’t getting McSoulFood.
The restaurant is decorated with a cinematic theme, complete with film reels and posters for movies like “Love & Basketball,” “Waiting to Exhale,” “A Raisin In The Sun,” and “The Color Purple.” There is even a poster for the great Eddie Murphy classic “Coming to America” in the men’s room.
The chef, who goes by Chef Royce, came out and chatted with each of the guests and made them feel welcome and at home, something that any soul food restaurant should do (and any restaurant, really). It was a nice, personal touch.
When my food arrived, I was not disappointed. The sides were plentiful. The mac and cheese was served in what appeared to be a cast-iron ramekin, if there is such a thing, and was rich and cheesy. The red beans and rice was perfectly cooked with enough spice and plenty of flavor. In addition, there was cornbread in a mini cast-iron pan.
As for the main event, the chicken was fried to a perfect golden brown. The crust and the juicy bird were both packed with flavor. I don’t know what this restaurant’s secret is, but this was probably one of the best fried chickens I’ve ever had in my life. My favorite chicken place in the world is Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans, and this chicken was darned close.
I will definitely be back, and I’ll try to order something else on their menu, even though I’ll be tempted to just get the chicken again. There are plenty of other entrees to choose from – a pan-fried pork chop smothered in onion gravy, gulf shrimp served in a variety of flavors, beef short ribs, St. Louis style ribs, rib tips, catfish, and much more.
Entrees generally run in the $15 to $20 range, and appetizers between $7 and $12.
Kiss My Dish is a spectacular culinary addition to Oswego and the Kendall County area, and I recommend everyone to stop on over to your new local Soul Kitchen.
• The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Record Newspapers. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a restaurant and then reports on the experience. The Mystery Diner is not intended to be a restaurant critic but does highlight the parts of a dining experience that he/she can recommend.
If you go
What: Kiss My Dish Soul Kitchen
Where: 4542 Route 71, Oswego
Hours: (Winter): 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday, closed Mondays
Information: 331-999-3465 or kissmydishsoulkitchen.com