Visiting Los Angeles and eating at over twenty Black establishments in search of the best of the best service and food has been a joyous, yet arduous task. We endured some not so exciting spaces, found true gems along the way while also accepting we have a lot more eating to do to experience them all.
There were some pretty challenging dining experiences, but one of the biggest disappointments included the most underwhelming soul food we’d had out of all major cities visited thus far. As a food writer and critic eating close to 2,000 Black owned restaurants, with at least half of that number being soul food forward establishments, our team knows a thing or two about the cuisine.
Soul food restaurants were and still are seen as the cornerstone of black-owned businesses that often serve as communal meeting places where Black people socialize, fellowship, and eat together. That dynamic is alive and well in Los Angeles, but it’s the recipes that have the issue. And there isn’t a space that had more issues with taste and generally accepted flavor profiles than Annie’s Soul Delicious located at 1066 S Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019.
We ordered the quintessential soul food selections and were shocked. Our first two selections were supposed to be soulful NOLA and Gulf region classics, Red Beans and Rice and Country Gravy and White Rice. The flavorless Red Beans and Rice were cooked with beef sausage and smoked turkey that had great texture, but the smoked meat and sausages provided no support in the flavor department whatsoever. The sausage eerily reminded me of the highly processed sausages found in corner stores in my hometown of Miami. When preparing authentic NOLA cuisine, selecting quality smoked meats and sausages is key to achieving that robust familiar flavor loved by so many. This was not the case at Annie’s unfortunately.
Spending over two weeks eating at over 30 Black owned restaurants in New Orleans just this year, I am confident a native NOLA tourist would have been underwhelmed and disappointed. The white rice and gravy should not have made it out of the kitchen. The overcooked rice meant each grain released microscopic waves of water that interacted with an already watery brown, completely tasteless gravy. My sincere advice and hope for the cooks at this location is to begin tasting their food, before sending it out. They surely would understand the harm being done to the reputation of the space after spooning just a slither of this unflattering side item.
In Soul Food cuisine, brown gravy is normally made using meat fat and broth that provide a deep meaty profile with hints of vegetables and aromatics that support but don’t overwhelm the base flavor. Annie’s gravy texture should have been thick enough to form a rewarding layer of sauce contouring the rice with a consistency allowing the grains to deliciously co-exist in a harmonious bite. That did not happen.
Thankfully, the mac and cheese was tasty. The pasta had great composition and texture, and the cheeses were melted through and through with a buttery flavor. Next up, outstandingly offensive candy yams (sweet potato) better described as a mush of indistinguishable flavors including cinnamon, random hints of earthiness and sweet butter-like blandness. This dish was insulting. If you visit the restaurant’s website and view the photo of that the candied yams are advertise to look like, you would not be a happy camper.
We reluctantly tried the collard greens and immediately regretted our decision. They were problematic from start to finish, beginning with a leafy, beach water tasting saline-like broth, totally devoid of the pot licker used to produce standout greens. The smoked meat flavor was missing the needed smokiness this nostalgic soul food veggie requires. More than likely, it was the same meat used with the red beans and rice.
The potato salad was the most egregious of all the sides. We should have known from how it looked, it was just wrong. Since when does potato salad look like ceviche? I couldn’t understand why it was so loose or how the mayonnaise separated from the potatoes. It was one of the worst potato salads I have eaten in my entire career. The severely undercooked potatoes swam around in some type of mayo-juice that resulted in an overall hellish experience.
Moving along to the proteins, the fried fish was well-battered and even had the welcomed cornmeal; but it was so salty, a hypertensive diner would need to double up on their medication to prevent their blood pressure from soaring through the roof! The flavorless oxtails were so overcooked forming an indescribable mush that should be avoided, especially by anyone familiar with what how this dish should actually taste.
Last but not least was the banana pudding, a complete abomination. The pudding was a gelatinous glob with soggy chessman cookies and freshly cut bananas. This weird concoction had me wondering why the bananas on the top were new, but the cookies were old. The texture was too off-putting to even try describing the flavor, especially since it lacked the vanilla custard taste necessary for any decent banana pudding.
Now for the LEAST! The “Rich AF Pasta” was $43.00 and pissed our whole table off. The pasta lacked the basic fundamentals of just salting and oiling the boiling water. Each pasta noodle was absent of any flavor whatsoever. The sauce did not assist at all. I was desperately hoping that it was one of those sauces that made up for the unflattering noodle, but alas, it continued down the vortex of flavorlessness, uncaring hands, and honestly, an embarrassment to mom-and-pop eateries who pride themselves in providing nostalgic home cooked food. This is not what you expect for spending over $40. How in the world was this place rated as Los Angeles’ BEST SOUL FOOD by Yelp? We had other underwhelming soul food experiences in the city, and some of them were better than this spot.
Our visit displayed the cooks taking zero pride in the cuisine and totally disrespected soul food cooking traditions. Adding insult to injury were the prices. If you’re going to charge $27 for oxtails and $43 for pasta, you have to come with it. They did not. These experiences can hurt other restaurants who prepare similar cuisines in the city, which are disproportionately Black owned. Diners and tourist work hard for their money and don’t deserve to be overcharged and underdelivered by large scale restaurants nor mom and pops. As Yelp’s #1 Soul Food Restaurant, this place has to maintain that honor and not provide the disastrous experience our team endured for a price tag of $140. Owning a restaurant shouldn’t be solely about making money, but also about doing what you love. It’s an art. That’s why the field is called CULINARY ARTS! Artists are passionate about their creations. I hope that someone from the restaurant takes this and makes the necessary changes for future diners Additionally, please stop sharing that this space is Black owned. After verifying with Los Angeles natives, and even googling, we found out this is not a Black owned restaurant. It is being marketed as so by customers, but that is in fact, not Black owned. We gave this space a 1 star out of 5 because it was honestly, the worst soul food I have ever eaten.
Maybe they should look into promoting their baked items more. The cookies here were amazing.
You can reach them at (323) 424-7402.