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« Valley Food Home

Southern exposure

Published: Wed, December 25, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

If You Go...

Where: Soul Food Sensations

Address: 2905 Glenwood Ave., Youngstown

Phone: 330-788-8955

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday



If you want a place with atmosphere different from the rest, you might want to check out Soul Food Sensations, on Glenwood Avenue.

Walking in, I was transported back to the 1950s and 60s with the hand-painted Motown Wall of Fame on two of the walls in the dining area. On another wall is a collection of record covers with groups that take you back, such as Cameo’s “Word Up” album.

Once I settled in after walking down memory lane with the artwork, I was approached by Gary Jr., son of owners Gary DeFrance Sr. and Lillian DeFrance, who all have been a part of their community for a long time and, in that community, small business owners for more than a decade. Businesses they’ve owned are Concepts of Learning Daycare and Stepping into the Future, a nonprofit multipurpose human services operation.

This restaurant, Soul Food Sensations, opened Oct. 19 and is the dream and realization of Mrs. DeFrance. She has always had a dream to open a restaurant and recently decided to seize the day and share her cooking with others. The recipes are “family secrets,” aka “don’t ask,” which have been handed down for generations with a twist on some of them by the modern members of the family.

You can see that this family really cares about their community and has very strong ties to family and tradition. Gary DeFrance Jr. said: “The best part of running a restaurant is constantly engaging with that positive part of Youngstown that people rarely talk about. We’ve met hundreds of people who have dreams as big as ours and support us 100 percent. Our ultimate goal is to become a staple in the community. Youngstown is mostly seen in a negative light. We hope to not only shed some light on the positive side, but also to add to it. My favorite moments are when I answer the phone and there’s a customer who calls back just to let us know how much they loved the food.” Sounds like a delectable goal to me!

I sampled the BBQ Pork Rib Dinner with baked beans, macaroni and cheese and corn bread for $11.99, as well as the two-piece white meat chicken dinner with french fries, sweet potatoes and a yeast roll for $8.50. And for dessert are pound cake, peach cobbler, sweet potato pie and banana pudding, each listed at $3.75.

Check them out on Facebook. They also offer trays for the holidays and large parties so you don’t have to worry about cooking. Try this authentic, soulful restaurant and don’t be surprised if you order two of the banana puddings for dessert.

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