Food & Drink

Deep-cut Southern soul food in Alphabet City

Alright, so you've got two teachers. The first returns to waiting tables and bartending "because it just pays more". The second leaves his post as a Cornell music theory professor to become a cook, which probably shouldn't pay more, but likely does. Go American educational system! Then they decide to create an ode to all the "best little joints" they've hit traveling the South and call it Heart 'n Soul

The lived-in space itself plays the part as well, with all sorts of music-related accoutrements, from the Nashville Orchestra poster, to the Sam Cooke and Ray Charles playing overhead, to the piano guts hanging on the wall

In the extremely open kitchen, the chef applies his aptitude for scholarly endeavors by going beyond fried chicken and mac 'n cheese (don't worry, they've still got those as specials) to create soul food the way it was done in the 1800s. Which means touches like African and Middle Eastern spices, but hopefully they use, like, gas stoves and stuff

Kick it off with small plates that include catfish gumbo, country poutine with andouille gravy, and these Smokin' Chicken Thighs that the chef first had 16yrs ago in Nashville and has been perfecting ever since. They're smoked in-house and topped with a "Green Goddess sauce", about which he says, "Bet it's the first time you've had anchovy, basil, and BBQ sauce all on the same plate before.

The crab cake has no filler and "really lets the crab sing purely" (music!) -- all the additional flavor is added by the spiced tomato jam with cinnamon, harissa, and chilies, which "wake it up a bit"

This is it. The must-have dish. Spicy, creamy-yet-impossibly-airy, white wine- and garlic-inflected shrimp with "some good motherfu**in' grits", which should do wonders for your soul -- and since they're made without butter, also your heart.