MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, MI — Months after chef LaKisha Harris unveiled her Soul Filled kitchen in the back of a speakeasy-style bar in Muskegon Heights, the North Muskegon native is opening a restaurant all her own.
The Soul Filled Eatery will open at 3232 Glade St. in Muskegon Heights with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, tour and coupons for free food on Sunday, Oct. 4. Then, the restaurant will offer takeout and delivery of its iconic soul food to the public beginning on Sunday, Oct. 11.
Harris told MLive that in August she left the Hideout, the iconic Heights bar where she had operated the kitchen and her comfort-food catering company since December 2019. Her departure allowed her establish what will be a “COVID-friendly” takeout counter, with an ambition to reach a broader swath of Muskegon County.
The menu will be the same style of soul food staples Harris has offered her customers for nearly a year, but with two special twists. The first is that every menu item will be named for a member of her family — an homage to the people who taught her to cook, and to the community that buoyed her to this moment.
And at this new restaurant, one dish will be the star: turkey knuckles.
The seasoned turkey knee joints — or “knuckles” — are prepared in several ways, including barbecued, fried, in a soup, and served with rice and gravy. By becoming the “home of the turkey knuckle,” her restaurant can help put Muskegon on the culinary map, she said.
“I believe that we are changing the culinary landscape of Muskegon,” she said. “I’m hoping that Soul Filled … gives us that thing that people come to the Lakeshore for.”
The restaurant will also serve other creative twists on soul food, such as the “Kesha Too” — named for Harris and her assistant, who shares her name. The dish is like a bread bowl, but made with cornbread and topped with things like candied yams, fried chicken and mac and cheese.
Harris also said she is excited for the vegan soul food menu she has been developing, which caters to a different customer still aching for comfort food.
The menu is about “really digging deep into expanding people’s palettes and trying new things,” Harris said.
The new restaurant will have five employees, and offer in-house delivery, as well as participating with delivery and pickup apps like Doordash and GrubHub. The location will be wheelchair accessible, Harris said, and customers will be able to order from an entry area and watch their food being prepared through a window.
“We want to keep our customers safe” during the coronavirus pandemic, she said.
The restaurant is at the corner of Muskegon Heights, Norton Shores and Roosevelt Park, and alongside Seaway Drive with easy access to the city of Muskegon and points north and south.
This is not the final step in Harris’ culinary journey, which began on the east side of the state, after years working abroad and in the corporate world, she previously told MLive. Next spring, she is planning to open a sit-down restaurant, which will offer a fine dining approach to soul food, with items like oxtails and corned beef, and rotating meats in homage to the years she spent living and working in Brazil.
She is eyeing the other side of Muskegon Lake for that spot, she said, where she can also pay homage to her alma mater, Reeths-Puffer High School.
Each of these establishments are a chance to offer unique foods that people can only find by visiting the Muskegon area, Harris said. A chance to build a local cuisine.
“I think we’re going to see, through this, a major, major shift of what this city has to offer as it relates to food, and diversity,” she said. “This is the time that the Muskegonite will rise, and we’ll begin to make authentic things, authentic to this community. That’s what my vision is for it – not just to build my name, but to build some morale in this community.”
Sunday’s celebration of the new eatery is therefore also meant to be a tribute to that community, which propelled her to the point of opening her own restaurant.
“Even though this is my restaurant, this is my baby, it was birthed out of a community-like experience,” Harris said, referring to the positive reaction she first received when starting out at the Hideout.
“This is my way of saying this belongs to everyone,” she said.
The new Soul Filled Eatery will officially open to the public on Sunday, Oct. 11, at 3232 Glade Street, Muskegon Heights, Mich. It will be open Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Closed Mondays. Find the menu and more information at the business’ website, soul-filled.com.
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