Soul food restaurant offers heavy servings of comfort, ambience
On any given day, the infectious sounds of soul music can be heard within the confines of Mama Sheila’s House of Soul. Since opening its doors in 2018, the restaurant has quietly established itself as one of the Twin Cities’ premier destinations for authentic Southern cuisine.
Located in South Minneapolis, the eatery has also become a gathering spot for the surrounding community, playing host to a myriad of events including public forums, business meetings, wedding receptions, and other celebrations.
Owner Frederick Brathwaite recognizes the importance of being a hub for the community, especially in an area where Black-owned businesses are slowly emerging. “At Mama Sheila’s, it was very important for us to create a space that was not only unique, but also a space where Black people can be proud of,” said Brathwaite.
“We also realize that we are one of the only Black-owned soul food restaurants in South Minneapolis,” he continued, “and when people think of quality of soul food, we immediately want them to think of Mama Sheila’s.”
A native of the Caribbean and a contractor by trade, Frederick, along with his wife and head chef, Sheila, decided to open the joint establishment following the success of their deli, which was in South Minneapolis. “Our deli was very successful at the time, but people wanted more of a sit-down dining experience. So, we were able to find this space,” Brathwaite explained.
“After finding the space, I designed it and built it out. My wife being from Chicago has a special gift for cooking, which has allowed us to make this space our own.”
Highlighted by its soul food buffet, Mama Sheila’s features a variety of Southern classics, including candied yams, collard greens, red beans and rice, fried chicken wings, and customer favorite, mac and cheese. “The mac and cheese is one of the most popular items on the menu. But people appreciate the love and care Mama Sheila puts into all of her food,” stated Brathwaite.
In addition to its noted soul food buffet, the restaurant is also known for its décor with many prominent Black figures and artists gracing its walls. Upon entry, customers are greeted by a painting of late Minneapolis legend and musician, Prince. Brathwaite is quick to point out this was all done by design.
“One of the first things people notice when they walk in is the picture of Prince. He’s one of the main features and lots of people want to take a picture with him,” said Brathwaite. “There’s also a picture of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and another of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. So, we wanted to have a picture of the King, the Queen, and the Prince.”
Brathwaite said many customers are drawn to Mama Sheila’s House of Soul because of its hospitality, which make patrons feel like they’re at home.
“Many times, people tell us that this place makes them feel homely, like they’re eating at home. Or they tell us they feel like they’re eating at their grandma’s. Maybe it’s because there are TVs here, a fireplace, flowers, or candles. But we do what we can to create an inviting atmosphere.”
When asked about the future of Mama Sheila’s House of Soul, Brathwaite hinted at plans of growth down the line, yet redirected focus on the present. “We want Mama Sheila’s to be a destination place. So, you can leave St. Cloud or St. Paul and say I’m going to Mama Sheila’s.
We want this to be a place where you can have your birthday party, wedding reception, and other moments of celebration.” He added, “As a Black-owned business, we want to make sure we are accessible to the community. Because when a business prospers, the community prospers as well.”
Mama Sheila’s House of Soul is located at 3744 Bloomington Ave. in South Minneapolis. They are open 12- 8pm, Sunday-Saturday and closed on Mondays. For more information, contact 612-584-3690 or visit their website at www.mamasheilashos.com.
Marquis Taylor is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.