Authentic soul-food can be found right here in Philadelphia. However, the competition for the best soul-food restaurant is fought fairly between two Philadelphia soul-food musts – Warmdaddy’s and Ms. Tootsie’s.
Warmdaddy’s is a Philadelphia soul-food-great, worthy enough to stand toe-to-toe with the beloved Ms. Tootsie’s. A trip to 1400 S Columbus Blvd will lead you to a beautifully spacious and dimly lit dining room, equipped with a bar, and no matter where in the house you are seated, every spot gifts customers a clear view of the main event – the stage.
Warmdaddy’s is a trusted spot in Philadelphia, where live music can be guaranteed every night, and their specialty is rhythm and blues. Reservations are an obvious choice if you are a seasoned regular to the establishment; however, if you are a rookie ignorantly sauntering into the club, then you may be surprised to find a packed lobby with a nice man behind glass regretfully informing you that there is simply no more space beyond those double doors.
Warmdaddy’s growing appeal is owed to the many R&B legends that grace its stage nightly, as well as up and coming artists every Tuesday for their weekly open-jam sessions. Warmdaddy’s was voted one of Philadelphia’s best jazz clubs, and they host their award-winning “Jazz Brunch Buffet” every Sunday.
There are some perks if you decide to stop by Warmdaddy’s during the week. If you happen to pop in on a Tuesday, you’re in luck because that is when Warmdaddy’s offers all you can eat crabs. On Wednesday’s it is half price glasses and bottles of wine and Saturdays are half-price appetizers and alcoholic drinks.
As previously noted, Warmdaddy’s offers a widely popular “Jazz Brunch Buffet” every Sunday. The buffet consists of a bread station, as well as a salad station and sides that include jerk chicken, home fries, smoked turkey collard greens, smoked house BBQ beef brisket and more. It is without a doubt, a surely satisfying way to spend a Sunday morning. You can catch their brunch from 10:30-3:00, reservations a requirement.
Now, moving on to dinner; when I first discovered the joy of Warmdaddy’s I opted for the “ Skillet Mac & Cheese” as an appetizer, perfect to share, or not. It was everything you could want in a proper southern-made mac & cheese – crispy on top, cheesy in the middle, no noodle left behind. When the time came for the eventual pick of my entree I opted for the “Louisiana Fried Shrimp”- deep-fried and marinated in a spicy pepper sauce, my mouth laid aflame and my skin consequentially warm with sweat. Blues poured off of the stage, submerging any and all voices – leaving the options of either becoming an expert in reading lips from the person across the table, or to simply let go, permitting yourself to go silent, allowing the food to feed your mind, body and soul, the music to tell a story.
Ms. Tootsie’s Soul Food Cafe
Ms. Tootsie’s is a Philadelphia soul food favorite and is located fittingly on 13th and south – an appropriate intersection for this southern beauty of a place. Upon my first visit, I was at the time, surprised to be stopped at the storefront with a line of people hungrily standing around the doorway, waiting to be seated. My first thought – this won’t be just another eatery on the south, the kind that only satisfactorily meets my expectations. This was going to be an experience, or at least that is what the hunger-fixed crowd around me was signaling. The place appeared to be very popular and as long as the line was it looked as if none of the waiting customers had any intention of up and leaving for another spot on South; and later it dawned on me, there is no other place like Ms. Tootsie’s on South Street, let alone Philadelphia. It is either Ms. Tootsie’s or nothing, especially if you have a specific craving for fried things and comfort.
Ms. Tootsie’s is more than just their food; it is a multilevel lounge. The music that is played throughout is much to its loyal customer’s satisfaction, strictly 90’s-early 2000’s R&B; included in the soul food café is one of three lounges titled the R&B lounge, with music greats like Jill Scott and Musiq Soulchild decorating the walls.
Ms. Tootsie’s is also readily equipped with two chic bars; one labeled the World Bar and the other, the Sky Bar. If you are looking for a satisfying adult beverage before the real food-fun begins, Ms. Tootsie’s has got you covered with martinis, wines, beers, and soulful cocktails – like their “Grown Folks Iced Tea” or “Summertime Sangria” that will have you daydreaming of vacations, warmth, and everlasting sunshine.
Ms. Tootsie’s menu from first glance is importantly authentic. The appetizer menu offers true southern selections with options like “Sadiki’s Catfish Fingers”, “Spicy Crab Cakes”, or “Mini Chicken & Waffles”; fried, fresh and savory beginnings before an inevitable and indulgent splurge of an ending. Featured on the entrees menu are the typical comfort staples like the “Southern Fried Chicken”, “Fried Tilapia”, or the “Jumbo Shrimp & Grits”. The menu continues and strays away from the typical southern picks, with items like “Smothered Pork Chops” or the “Lollipop Lamb Chops with Sweet Chili Sauce”; gloriously soul-clogging, refreshingly authentic.
There is no declaration of a winner because there is no competition to be had between the two. The food offered at both establishments is true to home, the music importantly the centerpiece at both – Ms. Tootsie’s, with sultry R&B floating from lounge to lounge to lounge – Warmdaddy’s with live rhythm and blues and jazz taking center stage. Both restaurants encompass the true meaning of southern comfort; it is a luxury to be confronted with the dilemma of dinner and have either of these places as an option.Ms. Tootsie’s offers a home to Philadelphian’s, a place to kick back in, with a full stomach and music for the soul. Warmdaddy’s offers an escape, the food, a sigh of relief – a celebration of culture; with live music transporting you to a world all of its own, soothing your hungry spirit.