Chicken Wings: Blissful. The Stranger

If you're mourning the loss of Catfish Corner and the Kingfish Cafe and you don't know about Simply Soulful, you are only hurting yourself. It's an African-American-owned soul food restaurant, it's affordable, and it stocks a variety of mind-blowing desserts. This probably sounds like the Promised Land to you, so why don't you know about it? Simply Soulful (2909 E Madison St #B, 474-9841) is unfortunately stashed away in a hidden parking lot just northeast of Cafe Flora, and it's only open until 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays—even earlier on the weekends—which makes it, to say the least, a less-than-optimal dinner option (though they do offer carryout service). Make no mistake: This is a meal worth contorting your calendar over.

As far as decor goes, Simply Soulful is more Catfish Corner than Kingfish Cafe, which is to say it's about as bland as possible, decorated with only a few personal touches such as photographs and family mementos. (Simply-soulful.com explains the restaurant is a family affair, with a sweet potato pie recipe perfected by Elizabeth Hammond, born in Mississippi in 1922, and handed down to her daughter Barbara, a proprietor of Simply Soulful.) It's pretty much just tables and chairs and linoleum and unflattering lighting.

But who cares about the setting when the food is this good? I ordered the chicken wings dinner ($12.95), and I could blissfully lose myself in this meal on a sinking tugboat. The sides I chose—macaroni and cheese and collard greens—were both handled masterfully. The mac and cheese was dense and sharp and crispy on top, but not too oily. Too many soul restaurants over-boil greens until they're a slimy pudding, but Simply Soulful's greens had the snap, crunch, and flavor of a vegetable.

The biggest flaw in the meal: The chicken wings were pretty salty. As in, I had to buy a bottle of water during the walk back to work because my mouth became as dry and chalky as a lime quarry. But everything else about these wings was so good—they're a little spicy, and just greasy enough—that I have to consider their saltiness to be an aberration. One table away from me, a skinny man who seemed to be a regular ordered the chicken and waffles ($12.95) and demolished the heaping plate to a puddle of syrup and a pile of gnawed-on bones in 10 minutes flat.

But all that was just a precursor to the Best Pecan Pie I've Ever Had in My Entire Life ($6.95). The pie, which is served whole in a small tin and could easily satisfy two people, isn't cloying-sweet like most pecan pies, and has a crust that's buttery, flaky, and substantial. Simply Soulful's pies and desserts are sold at grocery stores citywide, but they're even better following an overflowing plate of good, hot food. Soul food in Seattle is alive and well, it's just hiding in Madison Valley. recommended