Woodlawn cafe offers soul-satisfying food

CHICAGO Woodlawn isn't known for its restaurants, but residents of a certain age will remember H & A Soul Food on 63rd Street. The space has recently undergone an upgrade, offering soul-satisfying food and a complete meal for about $10.

For years, the space that once housed H & A Soul Food in Woodlawn sat vacant. But just a few months ago, Ace Reed decided to reopen it, under his own name.

"H & A started back in 1945. I been coming to this place since I was a kid...I saw an opportune chance to open back up a landmark," said Ace Reed, the owner of Ace's Soul Food Café.

He and his family have turned things around, offering the standard "meat and two" to a grateful clientele.

"We have baked chicken, beef neck bones, smothered pork chops, smothered chicken, pepper steak and rice," said Reed.

And, as satisfying as the smothered chicken is, there's also corned beef and spaghetti. Sides are all top notch: from creamy and satisfying mac and cheese, to candied yams and slow-stewed collard greens laced with turkey, instead of the usual ham hock. All meals come with warm, crusty corn muffins, and it would be hard to find a plate here that costs more than ten bucks.

Part of Reed's philosophy going in, was to bring back some of the H & A magic.

"I said, when I open up, I will try to find some of the cooks that used to work here; and that's what I did," Reed said.

Save room, because you don't want to pass up dessert. The peach cobbler is sweet, but not overly so, while the crust stays sufficiently crisp, not the usual soggy mess; banana pudding, meanwhile, has that rare attribute: a great ratio of wafers to pudding.

Reed says if there's one thing the old neighborhood needed -- in addition to another eating option -- it was a taste of his past.

"I'm bringing back my childhood, and I'm bringing something to the community," said Reed.

Ace's is also open for breakfast. If you go, be sure to also try their homemade fruit punch.

Ace's Soul Food Cafe
432 E. 63rd St.

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