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Soul Hole

Al Parker - July 26th, 2010
Soul Hole Serves Up Southern Comfort
By Al Parker
If you leave Traverse City’s Old Town tourists strolling along Union
Street and step into The Soul Hole, it’s easy to imagine that you’re
actually sliding into a cozy eatery in Baton Rouge, Mobile or Biloxi.
The warm paprika-colored ambience, cool jazz/blues sounds and
down-home Southern soul food make the place a welcome change from
national chain food choices.
“We’re providing the food that your Grandma used to cook down south,”
says Matt Hunter, the Soul Hole’s affable owner, who defied any bad
IRS tax omens and opened the restaurant on April 15 of this year. “So
far it’s going really well. We’re having a great summer.”
Before opening, the Soul Hole underwent some major renovations. It’s
in the space that formerly housed Radish, a salad-oriented eatery that
closed last year. “We revamped the kitchen, added a second bathroom,
an indoor smoker and other equipment,” says Hunter.
The result is a warm vibe that invites visitors to relax, dine and
linger. Colorful posters for Memphis’ historic Beale Street Musical
Festival line the paprika-red walls. Other jazz-oriented artwork adds
to the laid-back style. Tables and booths are roomy and offer seating
for 42, including 10 seats outside where diners can watch the action
on Union Street.

Atmosphere aside, it’s really the food that has customers becoming regulars.
The most popular menu choices are the appetizer of Fried Green
Tomatoes, breaded tomatoes deep fried and served with a tasty crawfish
tartar sauce ($5.95); Grilled Cheese with smoked gouda, raclette and
Swiss cheeses on Zydeco bread with Fried Green Tomatoes ($6.95); and
Southern Reuben with slow-roasted, smoked corned beef topped with
braised cabbage, homemade thousand island dressing and provolone on
rye ($8.95).
“We use local multi-grain Zydeco bread on our grilled cheese, braise
our own chuck (roast) in Right Brain Brewery Stout and do as much as
we can to support local vendors,” says Hunter.
Other sandwich options include Po’ Boys – your choice of deep-fried
catfish, oysters, shrimp or chicken – piled on a French baguette and
topped with lettuce, tomato, onions, Creole mustard and horseradish
aioli ($8.95 or $9.95 for a full size, $5.95 or $6.95 for half order.)
Or try the Beer Braised Chuck, BBQ beef topped with haystack onions on
a French roll ($8.95) or Pulled Pork featuring house-smoked pork on a
French roll and caramelized onion topped with creamy coleslaw ($7.95).
Crispy slaw and kettle chips accompany all sandwiches.

But it’s the Soul Hole’s entrees that really highlight the southern
comfort food that has generated some buzz around town.
“Our Chicken and Waffles is pretty popular,” says Hunter. “It’s made
with cornbread waffles, topped with smoked country ham and a
buttermilk fried chicken breast ($15.95). We serve it with candied
yams, braised cabbage and brandy-spiked Michigan maple syrup, which we
make in-house.”
Other entrees include Shrimp & Grits ($11.95), Shrimp & Crawfish
Etouffee ($12.95), Southern Fried Chicken Dinner ($11.95), and
deep-fried Catfish ($10.95).
“One of our most popular dinner entrees is our ribs,” says Hunter.
“Our ribs and fried chicken are really right up there.”
The ribs are slow-smoked St. Louis style, with a tangy house BBQ
sauce. A full rack is $18.95 while a half rack is $12.95. All come
with a choice of southern style side dishes – cole slaw, mashed asiago
Yukon potatoes, fried green tomatoes, corn pudding, red beans & rice,
cheddar grits, collard greens, black eyed peas or praline baked sweet

In addition to Hunter, the Soul Hole’s management team includes Pastry
Chef Ralph Humes, Chef Scott Williams and Manager Mark Nelson.
“Ralph brought us a lot of his family’s southern recipes and he taught
them to Scott,” explains Hunter. “Scott’s really done well. His
favorite cooking was barbecue and he’s mastered that in several of our
Two interesting salad choices are the Southern Cobb, with romaine
lettuce, fried chicken, smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, crispy Vidalia
onions and deviled eggs, topped with a Creole avocado vinaigrette
($9.95) and the Blackened Tuna, featuring mixed baby greens, blacked
yellow fin tuna, picked cucumbers, sweet tomatoes and fried Vidalia
onions, with a sweet potato vinaigrette.
Humes is providing sweet treats that may make you want to skip dinner
and go right to dessert. Red Velvet Cake, Carrot Cake, Black Forest
Cheesecake, Bourbon Pecan Pie, Sweet Potato Praline Pie, Drunken Peach
Cobbler and Praline Bread Pudding are all made in-house. Single
portions are $5.95 each.
An avid Food Network fan, Hunter was inspired after many hours spent
watching ‘Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,’ and its foodie-rock star host
Guy Fieri. It’s a popular show that features Fieri visiting unique,
eclectic eateries across the nation.
“Frankly, I’d rather have Guy Fieri stop by and visit us than win a
James Beard Award,” says Hunter with a laugh.

The Soul Hole, at 408 S. Union St. in Traverse City, is open Monday
through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10
p.m. Sunday closed. For more information or takeout orders, call

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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