VOL. 128 | NO. 157 | Tuesday, August 13, 2013
By Andy Meek
Raymond Williams, who co-owns Soul Fish Café with Tiger Bryant, repeatedly stresses that his 7-year-old restaurant has been blessed with both a loyal crew of hard-working employees and a run of great luck.
It’s more than luck, though, that draws customers to Soul Fish’s menu of comfort food. If it was just luck, the restaurant wouldn’t be poised to open its third location.
Soul Fish Cafe, which has locations in Cooper-Young and Germantown, has its sights set on a third location in the former Wolf Camera space at 4720 Poplar Ave.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
The next Soul Fish is about a month away from seating its first customers, if all goes according to plan. Williams expects construction to be done this month at 4720 Poplar Ave., in the old Wolf Camera space.
After that, he envisions a few more weeks before the doors are ready to open.
“I’ve been saying the first of September, but it could easily be the middle of September,” Williams said.
Nevertheless, the restaurant is finally in a location Williams said he’s coveted for years. In fact, the owners had hoped the second Soul Fish they opened, which is in Germantown, would be somewhere along the Poplar corridor.
No such luck. A few potential deals fell apart, so they instead skipped to another priority location and opened the sophomore Soul Fish in Germantown’s The Shops of Forest Hill.
Looking back, Williams said the growth evolved organically. There was never a magic number, he said, meaning the second and third locations happened once the owners saw enough demand for them.
“We just opened one, and that was kind of it,” Williams said. “Midtown is where we always wanted to be. That was always going to be No. 1. It took off like crazy. It’s one of those things – people ask you enough times, and you think, well, maybe I could do another one. We’re very fortunate that we have the great employees we do to even allow us to do this, because it’s a lot to do. Restaurants fail more often than not. There’s so many moving parts, and you’ve just got to be on top of everything all the time. The more you spread yourself thin, it gets harder and harder.”
Soul Fish started with a basic premise and still sticks to it. The restaurant serves comparatively inexpensive, tasty food with a bent toward chicken, catfish and vegetables.
Williams and Bryant have been close friends since college. Williams described the layout of the new restaurant as similar to that of the original Soul Fish in Cooper-Young – meaning, the new one also will be “a big rectangle.”
The new location will employ about 50 people. One new feature that will be present at the soon-to-open location is a patio, which will eventually be on the front. Customers will park in the back, where there are 40 or so spots – “plenty of parking,” Williams said.
The new menu will be similar to that of the Germantown Soul Fish, which does a handful of items the Midtown Soul Fish doesn’t offer.
“Germantown probably does five or six items every day that we don’t in Midtown just simply because I don’t have the kitchen space – either the prep space or the line space to do it,” Williams said. “In Germantown, for instance, we do fresh-cut French fries all the time, whereas in Midtown we have no place to store or cut French fries. In Germantown, I also do an Idaho rainbow trout every day, a blackened salmon every day, and I do a burger, which is just fantastic.”
Meanwhile, Williams said the Soul Fish menu and the extra ingredients of its dedicated staff and customers all comprise the business’ recipe for success.
“We’ve been lucky. I can’t stress that enough,” Williams said. “We also have such a great and loyal clientele. We’ve had some ups and downs with pricing some of our stuff, but we’ve always been lucky in that we have great clientele. The business was always there. That part was good.”