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Doug's Soul Food Cafe

Doug's Soul Food CafeUpdate: Doug's is closed.

In a word: Ranges from so-so to "eat the grease-soaked napkin" good.

The specs: #0401
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Isthmus, Yelp, Lectori Salutem, Madison Times, 77 Square, Ruppert Food Blog, TDPF, official web site, Doug's Soul Food Cafe on Urbanspoon

Latest Doug's Soul Food Cafe news and reviews

We basically ate the whole menu.
The bill was $37, or $9.25/person, plus tip.
Nichole gave Doug's Soul Food Cafe an A; JM and John K. gave Doug's Soul Food Cafe an A-; Judith gave Doug's Soul Food Cafe a B (see our grading rubric).

You know that joke about the big guy that goes into a restaurant, examines a menu, hands it back to the waitress and says "This'll do"? We've always wanted to do that. At at Doug's, we did. We got three of the five entrees (sparing only the beef spareribs and the fried perch), all seven sides, three breads, and three desserts, which fed the four of us regally, with leftovers.

The bottom line is if we were to assemble the best choices in one meal, we'd probably go for a chicken dinner with blackeyed peas, candied sweet potatoes, hush puppies, and Edna's lemon cake.

Soul food spread

JM and Nichole went to pick up our dinner, and inside Doug's, were greeted with cheery, butter-yellow walls, silk flowers on each table, and the names of famous soul food dishes in framed needlework on the walls. The carry-out business was steady during our not-uncalled-for 20 minute wait (good fried chicken takes time). That said, the store could use a better waiting area; the to-go customers invaded a fair share of the dining room, which fits about 45 at tables, booths and a traditional counter.

John and Judith, our gracious hosts with really cool plates, had had the pleasure of eating at Doug's before. They claim that it's just gotten better with time. John went so far as to say he couldn't remember the last time grease tasted so good. Now for the rundown:

Ribs, sweet potatoes, black eyed peasCatfish: was some of the best John's ever had, being large, moist and flaky. It's farm-raised, with a nice crunchy coating, and even the non-catfish fan among us had some and liked it.

Chicken: why, we all wondered, would anyone stop at the KFC down the street from Doug's? "It's like the difference between butter and 'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter'," opined John. The coating was seasoned well, and the meat was moist and peppery.

Barbeque pork spare ribs: not our favorite, not being slow cooked. They were more like a pork chop with sweet BBQ sauce. A little tough but decent.

The sides were better, on average, than the entrees themselves. The blackeyed peas were buttery and yummy, absolutely smooth and melt-in-your-mouth.

Collard greens: cooked in chicken fat, these were good but had a too-salty finish.

Candied sweet potatoes: could have been a dessert unto themselves.

Sauteed vegetables: summer squash and bell peppers, mostly, and were not overdone, sprinkled with dried oregano and lightly coated in oil. Bottom line, it's thoughtful that they're included on the menu as a healthier choice, but unless you're eating soul food every day you can splurge on something less correct.

Hush puppies: just divine. They were phenomenally oniony and crispy.

Mac and cheese: not bad, but congealed and cooled by the time we got it home; ditto the french fries.

Some misses were the cole slaw, which tasted harsh and cutting; and the cornbread muffin was criminally dry (maybe it was an off-batch).

DessertsFor dessert, Edna's lemon cake was OMG lemony. It was wonderful, moist and not oversweet, with a clean citrus aftertaste. The sweet potato pie was another hit, nicely nutmegged and with a tasty crust.

The chocolate bundt cake was not made in-house, and in fact reminded Nichole of the kind served at Michelangelo's and Fair Trade (and she has a sinking feeling about what that means for its provenance). It tasted fine, though.

So, yeah we all "Doug" it and we're glad to have another option for good fried chicken and its sundry sides in Madison.

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