I stopped by Esther's Cajun and Soul Food (5204 Yale) the other day for a quick lunch. It was my first time at the restaurant, and I had only found the place from taking a wrong turn on my drive to work. Glad I did. What caught my attention was Esther's quaint patio in an otherwise drab parking lot. Once inside, I was blown away by how different the interior was from the exterior. The modern, hip decor that resembled more of a cool bar than an authentic soul fool joint was not what I was expecting. But it worked, from the bold paint colors, to the flat-screen televisions, to the cafeteria-style serving line.
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What little research I'd done on the place (a two-minute Internet search) prepared me for a "you're part of the family" experience. That proved to be the case. Esther's niece was behind the food counter and guided me through each item. When she finished, I asked her what she recommended. She gave me a look that said...this is our home cooking, everything is good.
I settled on a standard one meat, two sides plate. I went with the peppered steak with a side of corn bread, cabbage, and sweet potatoes. I was warned the inch-thick ground-beef steak had a kick. It did. It was borderline too peppery, but that's the beauty of soul food -- the balance. Steak too peppery? That's all right, just mix in some sweet potatoes. The two together were perfection. I've never had better sweet potatoes. They were thick-cut, super soft, and stewing in sugary, buttery goodness. The dense, slightly sweet cornbread was gone in seconds. I got the cabbage for its health value. Too bad it was laced with bacon.
My plate, along with a peach iced tea, came to just under $10. This was a steal for the amount and quality of food. Don't forget the added bonus of not having to eat for another 18 hours.
I'll be back to Esther's, definitely for some more soul food, and probably on a Friday when they serve various Cajun favorites.