While I love exploring the New York City food scene, it is always a treat to encounter fantastic restaurants closer to home. I was delighted to discover a delicious soul food restaurant in North Jersey: Freetown Kitchen.
Freetown Kitchen is located in Maplewood, New Jersey, a suburban township in Essex County. The city is about 25 miles outside of Manhattan and 15 minutes from Newark, New Jersey. A soul food restaurant makes a great deal of sense in this part of New Jersey, which has a large and multiethnic Black population.
In recognition of Essex County’s prominent Muslim presence, the restaurant serves halal meat (slaughtered according to Islamic principles); there are also vegan options like falafel.
|Address: 1844 Springfield Ave, Maplewood, NJ 07040|
Hours: Monday, Wednesday-Sunday, 11AM-8PM
Service: Delivery, Takeout
Contact: (973) 327-2295, freetownkitchensoma.com
Freetown Kitchen’s Southern Roots
Established in April 2019, Freetown Kitchen is owned by Oscar Larsen. The restaurant’s tagline is, “Come get free with us. Your mouth and soul will thank you.”
The concept was inspired by acclaimed Black American chef and author Edna Lewis. In her classic cookbook, The Taste of Country Cooking, Lewis honors her hometown Freetown, Virginia, a community founded by former enslaved people. The book is foundational to understanding soul food and African-American cuisine.
Culinary Director Emeka Onugha describes Freetown Kitchen as a “Pan-African/Soul Food culinary and cultural destination specializing in good eats from throughout the African Diaspora.”
Pan-African Soul Food in New Jersey
Freetown Kitchen is truly a Pan-African spot. It has offerings as diverse as jollof rice, jerk chicken, and candied yams, reflecting the cuisines available throughout the African Diaspora.
I was so excited by all of the options that I couldn’t choose just one. I ordered the following:
- Fried Chicken Sandwich and Plantain Fries;
- Macaroni and Cheese; and
- Candied Yams.
Fried Chicken Sandwich and Plantain Fries
The fried chicken sandwich looked simple, but it was crispy and moist. I was particularly intrigued by the plantain fries, as I had never tried them prepared in such a way. They were addictive. I will definitely be making them this way at home moving forward.
Macaroni and Cheese
I am always skeptical of macaroni and cheese, because too often it is dry or made with Velveeta–a cheese that I dislike in both taste and texture. Freetown Kitchen’s Mac and cheese had none of these issues. It was well-seasoned, cheesy and creamy. Not to brag, but it honestly reminded me of my own Southern Baked Mac and Cheese.
The candied yams were very tasty. Tender and flavorful without being too sweet. I loved how the fresh herbs balanced the taste of the cinnamon and nutmeg.
Five Star Soul Food in New Jersey
I am so happy to have found a wonderful soul food spot in North Jersey. The food was delicious and the portion was fair for the price. It is great to support a Black owned restaurant that provides excellent Pan-African cuisine. 5 out of 5 STARS.
For more Black-owned soul food restaurants in the Tri-state area, check out my post on Red Rooster Harlem!