Even the most health-conscious can agree that there’s something irresistible about American Southern-style soul food — fried, saucy, spicy, and aromatic, it’s the ultimate comfort meal. And while the late Sylvia Brown — who helped bring this cuisine to the public’s attention — was known as Harlem’s Queen of Soul Food, here in the Valley we have our own reigning cultural cook: Cheryl Santiago, owner of Cheryl’s Fried Fish and Soul Food in Middletown.
With a menu that incorporates Caribbean, African, and American (both Native and 19th-century) influences, this eatery offers a taste of this unique style of cooking without breaking the bank. Crisp fried flounder with two sides (we recommend the collard greens and plantains, $11) appeals to any palate, while diners looking for a dish that gets to the heart of the culture should try the tender oxtail with a side of rice and those delicious plantains ($9.50). And although some hard-core foodies consider it a sin to change ingredients or cooking techniques to make soul food “healthier,” a few grilled options give those with dietary restrictions a chance to savor this cuisine; options include a turkey burger with fries, salad, and fried onions ($7.50) or blackened salmon with veggies and rice ($11). Good for the soul and the wallet.