For his new musical “Grace," composer/producer Nolan Williams Jr. drew inspiration from pioneering Black chefs who turned common foods born of hardship into culinary treasures. Here are his favorite eateries embodying the spirit and soul of “Grace.”Less
“Tasties is the classic’s classic,” says Nolan. “The locations in North and West Philly serve up the traditional soul food staples, including delicious freshly pulled greens with turkey butts as a side. In my musical ‘Grace,’ the character Miss Minnie would probably tell you to have an extra spoonful of potlikker with those greens to stay healthy and trim. Folks that know me, know I have a sweet tooth, so I’m always making sure to save room for the carrot cake as a dessert, and you should too!"
"Atiya's serves dishes that are not only good for your body, but also your spirit. As a pollo-pescatarian, I am especially fond of their salmon dishes, such as the grilled salmon stir-fry (sautéed onions, bell peppers, and a choice of brown rice or quinoa). In my musical “Grace,” there’s a character named EJ who hails from the ‘other side’ of the family, the side that is high-brow and leery of fatty foods. If you can relate, check out any of Atiya's tasty vegetarian, vegan and raw menu options."
"For over three decades, Corinne Bradley-Powers has been regarded in the community as a ‘soul food magician.’ Similar to my ‘Grace’ character, ‘Gran’Me,’ Corinne brings people together through food and love. The traditional Southern options include baked mac and cheese, black-eyed peas, and okra, corn, and tomatoes. If you’re in Camden, give them a try. The experience will surely make you feel right at home."
"The Bynum Brothers have been forces in Philly’s entertainment scene for decades, deliciously melding Southern cuisine and America’s original music in this North Broad jazz club. The classic mac and cheese is well worth savoring as a takeout option even if for now we need to listen to jazz music at home. And here’s a special treat: The Bynums are bringing back their favorite soul food from Warmdaddy’s, their sister restaurant which closed this summer, in a new location next door to South."
"Chef-owners Chad and Hanna Williams reimagined this near 50-year-old Philly landmark a few years ago. Their challenges – an aged structure, gentrification in South Philly – mirror those faced by Grace’s Ruthie, who struggles in my musical to keep her family’s century-old restaurant afloat. Friday Saturday Sunday features a curated eight-course tasting menu that is seasonably inspired. The beautiful intimate dining room is the perfect setting for a lovely date night."
"This sister means business. Brotherly Grub Café and Food Truck owner Tanesha Trippett is serving up soulful dishes while also helping out our frontline healthcare professionals from her spot in Mount Airy. Like the long line of culinary women in "Grace," Tanesha brings Southern influence with Philly swag. Her great food – especially her chicken & waffles – and pay-it-forward program are an inspiration and gift to her community."