What soul food restaurants lack in ambiance, they often make up for in good, down-home cuisine — the modest digs are part of the charm and lend authenticity to the tried-and-true menus of chicken and biscuits, greens, and mac and cheese.
Yet Zanzibar Soul Fusion, a new restaurant now open at Shaker Square, is no ordinary soul food joint. The new hotspot offers soul food with a twist, dishing out traditional southern comforts in the atmosphere of an upscale lounge.
“We offer a foundation of soul food fused with other popular food items from different ethnic groups,” says owner Akin Affrica. “It’s Southern comfort food for the masses.”
Affrica, a third-generation restaurant owner whose family also owns Angie’s Soul Café, says that soul food fans will recognize the scratch cooking, traditional recipes and fresh ingredients, but will be surprised by the fresh, unusual take on soul food.
Instead of artichoke and spinach dip, for instance, chef Tony Fortner substitutes collard greens. Other unique, mouth-watering treats include the shrimp Po’ Boys with lime zest sauce and slaw, and the Soul Rolls, a southern take on the Chinese egg roll.
Zanzibar also adds a new flavor to Shaker Square, the historic east side shopping center that’s become a restaurant destination since it was purchased by the Coral Company in 2004. “I’ve always wanted to open a soul food restaurant here,” Affrica says, “so when the owners contacted me, I figured it was meant to be.”