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Food from the Soul



Published: Thu, January 20, 2011 @ 12:01 a.m.
  Youngstown Soulfood

A new eatery serving up some old school delights just opened on Youngstown's Southside.

A new eatery serving up some old school delights just opened on Youngstown's Southside.

photo

The Vindicator (Youngstown)

Fried fish, french fries and fried okra are among the menu items at Youngstown Soul Food.

photo

The Vindicator (Youngstown)

Ron Collier and his wife, Henrietta Dixon-Collier, have opened a new eatery called Youngstown Soul Food in the city’s Uptown District at Market Street and Indianola Avenue.

IF YOU GO

What: Youngstown Soul Food.

Where: 2639 Market St. on Youngstown’s South Side in the Uptown District, site of the former Mr. Wheeler’s restaurant.

Hours: Noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Closed on Saturdays. Menu includes smoked ribs, fried haddock, collard greens, chitterlings and various desserts. Breakfast is served all day.

Source: Youngstown Soul Food

By SEAN BARRON

news@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

When it comes to revitalizing the Uptown section of the city’s South Side, you might say that Ronald Collier is putting his heart and soul into the task.

He’s put his heart into the effort by opening a restaurant and breathing a bit of new life into an area long dominated by boarded-up storefronts and plagued by crime.

The soul part is central in the eatery’s name: Youngstown Soul Food.

“Me and my wife have cooked for churches, organizations and block watches for 25 years and figured we need our spot,” Collier said recently, referring to his business, 2639 Market St., site of the former Mr. Wheeler’s restaurant. “I said we can make this happen.”

Collier and his wife, Henrietta Dixon-Collier, have spent years preparing meals for families and friends as well as graduations, family reunions and other gatherings.

That, combined with a desire to take their love of cooking a step further and give back to the community, led to the debut of Youngstown Soul Food, which the city couple opened in mid-December.

The restaurant specializes in old-fashioned Southern offerings such as chitterlings, smoked ribs, cornbread, collard greens, pig’s feet, fried haddock and several desserts. Breakfast also is available all day, he noted.

Roughly 90 percent of Youngstown Soul Food’s business is carry-out orders, which are available to businesses throughout the Mahoning Valley, he explained, adding that the orders must be at least $20.

Nevertheless, he said, the restaurant is quickly establishing its regular customer base.

Collier, who started the business with his own money, said his main aim is to have a comfortable family-like atmosphere where people can gather and talk to one another. He is undeterred by crime in the area, including last year’s drive-by shooting that killed an elderly man and wounded the man’s wife.

“I’m here for the long haul and for the people,” added Collier, a 1970 South High School graduate.

A family feel is reinforced by the fact that the couple’s five children, Jo Ann, Ron Jr., Tequile, Robert and Tonya, provide support and assistance, he pointed out.

Customers, especially those who patronized Mr. Wheeler’s, will be hard pressed to miss the blending of original and new features.

The new can be seen on the walls, where two flat-screen TVs stand out against a backdrop of mellow red, yellow and brown paint that replaced the wallpaper. New carpeting was added to the floor, Collier continued.

The old includes the wooden upright benches, coatracks and tables, along with the swinging double doors in the front entrance.

Like cooking, community activism is nothing new to Henrietta Dixon-Collier, who in 1991 founded The Dream Team Block Watch, which has grown to encompass much of the South Side. The block-watch group has more than 150 members, she noted.

Many South Side residents have felt disenfranchised over the years largely because promises to revitalize and bring new businesses to their neighborhoods have failed to materialize, she observed. The restaurant is an encouraging sign for many people, Dixon-Collier said.

“Ron and I figured people need to see some hope,” she explained. “This corner [Market Street and Indianola Avenue] represents good memories of Mr. Wheeler’s.”

Word of the restaurant’s opening has spread beyond the Valley, Dixon-Collier said, adding that people have come from Cleveland and Pittsburgh to patronize the restaurant.

The couple also praised Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, for her help and encouraging them to make their venture a reality.


Comments

1undead76(63 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

I was driving into the downtown area last week and saw the sign up for the business. I thought it looked really professional compared to what you you usually see there. I'm really hoping they thrive. I'm going to stop by and get a rib dinner sometime.

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2Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Good luck .and hope you do great

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3gripmadlock(16 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

I really, really hope this venture is successful. The best of luck to the Colliers.

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4MLC75(528 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

I wish the Colliers the best of luck,this is the classic case of the American Dream.

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5walter_sobchak(1909 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

db2,

What do you think sausage is made from? Apparently, the best casings are sheep intestines. So, what's the big deal? I have been told that if you were to look into a vat at a processor making hot dogs or bologna, you would never eat it since it is a gray mush. The best hot dogs I ever ate are from Smith's Provisions in Erie that has a natural casing. They snap when bitten!

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6Hedgehog(6 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

I have eaten at the Youngstown Soul Food. I had Chili, Mac 'n Cheese, a smattering of the Custard Pie, a bite of greens, and the bean soup. I would only characterize this experience as; to quote Guy Fieri; out of bounds! In white guy speak, that means that it was very tasty. Most importantly, my farts did NOT smell like a sewer for three days. I have eaten at many family restaurants in my life, and this one, exceptional it is, should be an example of the rule.

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7Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

What, no fried chicken ? I'll have to stop by and try the smoked ribs .

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8mewilliams1961(1 comment)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Glad to see this good news! I work for H&R block across the street and we welcome some good food and good people! Let's pull together and support these folks trying to do something good instead of destructive. (And did I see italian wedding soup?)

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9JB27(5 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

What a great venture. My mom worked at Mr. Wheelers from the time I was 5 until I was 10. I practically grew up there. Although the menu is a lot different, I can't wait to give it a try and sit in those wooden booths again. Best of luck!!

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10mrajn21(2 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

AWESOME! I live in a (very safe) suburb 20 miles outside of Youngstown, but have been working on the South Side for the last 3 years. Mr. Collier and his wife are WONDERFUL people and they make amazing food! The South Side is dangerous because of drug activity, gang violence, and basically "bad blood" revenge...... but none of that is going on in this place with these people! I've been ordering pies and chili/cornbread from them since I've known them. Opening this restaurant has been a long-awaited dream for them and they're doin it right! Believe me this family has some staying power. And the business is doing well because the food speaks for itself - it's AMAZING and extremely reasonably priced! By the way... don't have to be black to appreciate the food ;) ;) ;)

P.S. to all the comments about chitterlings... yeah, being white & from the north, I never grew up with anything like that and the texture just doesn't sit right with me. But did you read about the chili, ribs, cornbread, cakes, etc? The food is GOOD!

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11JB27(5 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

@could it be...no..lettuce, tomato, and mayo weren't my things back then...I was more about swinging on the steel gate at the back entrance and dipping my fries in the chocolate shakes...thanks for remembering with me though!

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