–Julia Crowley, EDN
In the heart of Eugene’s funky Whitaker Neighborhood, southern soul is dished out in food, drinks, atmosphere and music.
Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen, southern style BBQ and blues joint, is set within a renovated house complete with front yard landscaping, a wooden side deck for outdoor dining and a grassy backyard with tree stump seating for viewing live Blues performances.
The menu offers classic southern favorites like fried chicken, crawfish jambalaya, southern fried snapper, bar-b-que pulled pork and ‘Nawlins’ style gumbo. Some of the traditional sides include black-eyed peas, fried okra, hush puppies, and collard greens, and the drink menu offers sweet tea, lemonade, and wine and beer from nearby Territorial Vineyards and Wine Company and Ninkasi Brewing.
Lunch Gal Jennifer arrived at Papa’s Soul Food first, and a long line of people were already there waiting for the doors to open at noon. Once the doors opened, a waitress handed menus to people as they entered and everyone seated themselves. It’s a good thing Jennifer arrived early. Once Maria and I got there, every table and every chair at every table was taken-it was a full house. Since the sun was shining and the air was warm, finding Jennifer at one of the outdoor picnic tables was no surprise.
We were greeted by a very friendly waitress who took our drink orders. Jennifer and I both ordered the Territorial Pinot Gris while Maria opted for the signature drink of the south, Sweet Tea. For food, the Bar-B-Que Pulled Pork Sandwich had been highly recommended, so I knew what I was going to order before looking at the menu. Jennifer decided on the Beef Brisket Sandwich, and although Maria tends to avoid fried foods, she couldn’t resist the Fried Chicken with a side of Collard Greens and Fried Okra. We all wanted to try the Hush Puppies, so we put in an order to share.
With the casual atmosphere and collage of Boogie Woogie Blues coming from the outdoor speakers, we were as comfortable as we would be at a friends house or in our own backyards. While we sipped our drinks and soaked in the warmth of the sun, we talked about Jennifer’s new haircut, the color of polish on our toes, and how we wished we had a chauffeur to drive us to our lunch outings so we could stay longer, drink more wine, and not need to worry about driving home. The thought of having our own chauffeur was so funny to us that we came up with some crazy ideas. We envisioned our chauffeur’s car doors being plastered with magnets of our faces, drawn in a caricature style, and a Local Lunch Gals logo stuck on the hood. We imagined pulling up to restaurants in Maria’s husbands convertible 1968 Roadster Ford Bronco, but we’re pretty sure he wouldn’t want our logo magnets and goofy caricatures appearing on the side of his prized possession. Regardless, the images we were envisioning in our heads were so ridiculously silly, it was hard for us to stop laughing for a good fifteen minutes.
When our food arrived, we were silent for the first time since we took our seats at the picnic table, and I stared at my larger than average bar-b-que pulled pork sandwich wondering if I should attempt my first bite by picking it up with my hands or by using a fork and knife. I eyed Jennifer because her beef brisket sandwich was as large as my pulled pork sandwich, and she used her fork and knife to cut into the sandwich like it was a steak. I probably should have followed her lead; instead, I picked mine up with both of my hands and took a bite. My fingers were instantly covered in sauce, but it didn’t bother me much. At first bite, I knew this was the best bar-b-que pulled pork sandwich I had ever had, and that’s a lot said considering I’ve had my fair share of bar-b-que pulled pork sandwiches after living in the deep south for almost twenty years. In between the super soft sandwich roll was perfectly cooked tender and flavorful pulled pork. The pork was covered in a sweet, yet spicy, bar-b-que sauce, and a layer of chilled coleslaw was placed between the bottom bun and the pork which added a creamy coolness and delectable crunch that was absolutely outstanding.
I insisted Jennifer and Maria both try a bite, and Jennifer agreed that it was an incredibly delicious sandwich. She immediately wished she had ordered the pulled pork instead of the beef brisket. She also loved Maria’s side of fried okra. The okra was fresh and fried to perfection: crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. In fact, everything that was fried, was fried to perfection, including the savory hush puppies and Maria’s scrumptious fried chicken.
Extremely crunchy and delicious on the outside, the chicken inside was mouthwatering and super juicy and tender. There were three pieces of bone-in chicken: a breast, thigh and drumstick. Maria absolutely loved the southern-style fried chicken, and she also enjoyed the side of collard greens which were packed full of flavors.
All three of us are looking forward to returning to Papa’s Soul Food, we had a great time. We thought the menu was very diverse with a whole load of southern style options at excellent prices. The staff was super friendly and the food was really good and true to its southern soul roots. Best of all was the setting and surroundings: the decor, music and casual atmosphere made us feel like we were actually in the bayous of Louisiana, and now that the weather is getting warmer, we can’t wait to return and claim one of the tree stumps next to the stage to listen to some live Blues while enjoying some true southern soul food.
For a review of Territorial’s Pinot Gris visit WineJulia.com. If you own a limousine company or a party shuttle and would like to be our chauffeur on our next lunch date, please comment at the bottom of this article or contact us on our Local Lunch Gals facebook page.