Soul Food at Oohhs & Aahhs on U Street

The first time I heard of soul food in the seven years that I’ve lived in the States was on Disney channel, three years ago. (Yes, my inner kid occasionally enjoys Disney channel.) You know those “filler segments” that air in-between shows? This one I watched  had teen Disney stars talking about their favourite foods. When it was Raven Symone’s turn, she said, “I cook a lot of souul food!”

She made it sound so enchanting that I made it a mental note to try real soul food sometime. Today I had that chance. I’d bought a Trubates deal for $20 worth of food from Oohhs and Aahhs down on U Street in the D.C. months ago and it was set to expire today. On chilly day like this, it made sense to get some grub that would be good for my soul. 😉

Soul food, if I can believe mainstream media, is African-American cuisine. You’ll find foods like fried chicken, fried catfish, ham hocks, collard greens, mac and cheese, yams and corn bread, just to name a few. Before I braved the trip on the District’s ever-unreliable Metro service, I wanted to know in advance what to order at a place I’ve never eaten at before. So I looked up Yelp! reviews to see what others recommend at Oohhs and Aahhs. In general, the feedback was positive. This was looking promising!

I had just a short walk from the U Street-Cardozo stop on the Yellow/Green line before I found the place. “Do you need a menu?” asked the friendly lady in a bright pink t-shirt, behind the counter, a few minutes after I entered the place. Despite knowing what I wanted to order, I took a look anyway. Oohhs and Aahhs is small and no frills. There are three bar stools at a front counter and a few small tables upstairs. The food is presented cafeteria-style, sitting in food warmers behind a glass screen.

On my first visit, I went with their most popular items – fried chicken, mashed sweet yams and macaroni & cheese. For two chicken dinners, it was a total of about $34 plus tax. Because of the $20 coupon, I just had to shell out $14. Without the coupon, it’s a tad pricey, but portions are humongous. Two styrofoam boxes of food I got must have totalled six or seven pounds! The picture above doesn’t do justice in showing just how big they are. Nor does it tell you how they taste.

Verdict on the three items that I got:

Fried chicken – Delicious, well-seasoned wings. Chicken breast was slightly dry and rather dark as if it was fried in older oil, but bursting with flavor, primarily Old Bay. (Readers who are unfamiliar with Old Bay, it’s a blend of herbs and spices that’s used especially in Maryland seafood.) According to the lady in pink, the owner grew up in the District and menu items are prepared with family recipes. I’d say go with the wings when they’re freshly made. Once you’ve had them, Popeye’s will never taste as good again.

Macaroni and cheese – I love most mac and cheeses and this one was definitely enjoyable. There’s almost as much cheese as there is macaroni, and it’s a more solid and stringy – not soupy – cheese. I detected different flavours, which makes me believe that they must use a blend of sorts. However, I’m not enough of a cheese connoisseur to tell you the types.

Yams – Somehow I thought that this would be sliced, savoury sweet potato yams. Instead, it was finely mashed and cooked with sugar and cinnamon. It tasted like very good pumpkin pie filling and I’d recommend it if you like this style of preparation. I would personally have preferred savoury yams that complemented the rest of the dinner.

Overall, the meal was very good, although this isn’t something that I could eat everyday. Such decadent foods wouldn’t suit my already (currently) couch potato lifestyle. Plus, as a few Yelpers pointed out, the food is on the pricey side, despite huge portions. But if I happened to be in the U Street area and was hankering for a gratifying meal, I’d definitely go there again for the wings. 🙂

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