Heart n’ Soul to Replace Mama’s Food Shop Next Week

UntitledDaniel Maurer

The mural that graced Mama’s Food Shop has been painted over and will be replaced when Heart n’ Soul opens on East Third Street next Thursday.

“We had mixed feelings about that,” said Richard Freedman, the landlord of Mama’s Food Shop who took over the space in July, to the chagrin of many East Villagers.

At the end of the day, the old artwork just didn’t click. “It’s a new place; it has a new identity,” he said.

That identity is “casual soul food with a chef,” said Mr. Freeman, and the chef is David Conn, who said his brand of “Southern coastal cuisine” aims to highlight the history of the Gullah population in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. The slave descendents were the first creators of soul food, he said.

mama'sMelvin Felix Mama’s

“I’m trying to show the roots of [soul food] and use the spices that were originally used,” said Mr. Conn, citing his Gullah Gumbo. “It’s related to the New Orleans gumbo, but it has tomatoes in it,” he said, adding that many traditional soul food dishes are accompanied by tomatoes and ashanti peppers.

Mr. Conn first studied culinary arts in the south and lived in Tennessee and Georgia for a number of years.

According to the chef, many of soul food’s original spices were brought to the United States from Africa through the slave trade. The more popularized version of soul food was born when slavery died because African spices weren’t as readily available.

Mr. Conn’s meatloaf contains ginger and stewed buttered tomatoes with cinnamon and harissa, and the dish comes with brown-butter mashed potatoes. His peppered oxtail is braised with ashanti peppers and an allspice more closely related to Africa. It will be accompanied by gnocchi made from grits and a merguez gravy.

Mama’s Bar next door will serve small plates and appetizers off of the new restaurant’s menu, and next month Heart n’ Soul will open for brunch on weekends. The brunch menu includes traditional dishes like biscuits and gravy, and what Mr. Conn calls “rednecks benedict” — a grits knish on corned beef hash with egg and creole gravy. This spring, the restaurant will also open a patio space with outdoor seating.

Heart n’ Soul, 200 East Third Street (near Avenue B); (646) 360-2053. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.