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.
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.
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I'll be back to Esther's, definitely for some more soul food, and probably on a Friday when they serve various Cajun favorites.