Those that live on the Westside know the soul food goodness of The Potter’s House Soul Food Bistro, but those that don’t might not know they have a location on the outer edge of Jacksonville (Greater Arlington) toward the Beaches. Potter’s has been so popular on the Westside that they had to adopt a cafeteria-style way of running things. Soul Food Bistro on Atlantic still has the trays and the counter ordering, but they also have a hostess station, a modern layout, with great signage and design details. They’ve been in this spot since 2013, and they have both the Lenox location on the Westside and this one. The Kernan/Atlantic location is in an out-building in the Walmart parking lot. It’s worth sussing out where it is, and once you know, you may, like a pigeon seeking their home, find yourself drawn back again by the memory of their food. On the Westside, I’d only had their fried chicken. Though it was quite a few years ago, I still remembered that chicken (perfectly fried, breaded and seasoned just so, crispy and tender). This time, as I was there to taste what else they had to offer, I resisted the temptation of their chicken and went for the items I hadn’t had before.
I discovered why, at the old locale, they were always out of oxtail wontons. They’re popular enough that the head chef jokingly mentioned there’s actually someone whose only job is to make the wontons. I thought she was kidding, until I tasted one. Now I know the truth. Inside the crispy wrappers there was a world of flavor: rich cream cheese tempering the intense beefy flavor of shredded oxtail. You can also get regular oxtail. There’s a very intense flavor to oxtail; it’s like ramped-up beef. For the uninitiated, it can sound a bit daunting, but if you’re going to try it anywhere, Potter’s is the place. Oxtail takes time, and the chefs here are patient. They’ll let it stew the way it should, for hours in a pot so big you can fit a person in it.
The smothered pork chop was a bit salty, but, as I ate it, I had no regrets. It was delicious. The salt opens up all the other flavors, making the gravy all the richer. This super-Southern choice is one of their most popular menu items, and it pairs well with their sweet cornbread, whimsically named “Slap Yo Mamma” Cornbread.
Those looking for lighter fare can find it, if they look and ask. Salads are on offer. Tossed, broccoli, and cucumber salad are three of the options. The Assistant Manager, Chef Ardelia Speed-Johnson, is a Nutritional Chef who brings healthy options to their soulful menu. Southern-style veggies can be a thing of beauty, and that’s certainly true at the Bistro. They do collards and seasoned string beans well.
The other side item that should make it on to your plate isn’t vegetable based or low-fat: it’s their mac and cheese. Four cheeses, most of which are a double-super secret, go into the making of some of the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had. There’s a reason why one of my dining companions believed there was a highly addictive substance somewhere in the mac and cheese, and why another was obsessed with getting the the recipe. (For the record, one of those cheeses has been confirmed to be “a very sharp cheddar,” but shhhh! We can’t tell you more!)
Soul Food Bistro has garnered some recognition on a national basis recently, getting nominated just this year for Best Soul Food at the Neighborhood Awards (hosted and put on by Steve Harvey). Check them out, you won’t go away hungry. You can find them at 5310 Lenox Avenue suite 1 Jacksonville, FL 32205 and 11876 Atlantic Blvd. Jacksonville, FL 32225. Don’t forget that they’re closed on Mondays, and feel free to check them out online at www.thesoulfoodbistro.com.