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GREAT GRAVY!
SOUL FABULOUS SERVES UP OLD-FASHIONED VITTLES

The first thing I saw when I entered Soul Fabulous was a steam table. And many trays upon that one. Just doing what a steam table does best, maintaining prepared food at edible temperature. Normally that would put me off.

But the type of food that Soul Fabulous offers in its cafeteria setup at 2607 Bailey Ave. is the type of food that doesn't particularly suffer from this kind of treatment. It's mostly the old-fashioned, southern vittles that many people call soul food. The kind that looks like mom cooked it.

So I stepped up to the counter and ordered away.

The food at Soul Fabulous is served on Styrofoam trays with plastic silver and there are plenty of tables to sit at. But I couldn't help but notice that about half the orders the nice ladies behind the counter were dispensing were for takeout. Major, major takeout, that is - the portions are very generous here.

These were plenty of dishes I especially liked (I should mention that three of us were sharing): the fried pork chops, the sticky-sauced pork ribs and the ham hocks. I couldn't make up my mind about the fried chicken - the batter was terrific but was the meat a tiny bit dry?

Well certainly it was not dry once I put gravy on it. Great gravy! (Sounds like something out of "Batman!") The gravy was slightly salty, the way I like it, and smooth and full of flavor. It also tasted good on top of the stuffing.

Have I mentioned the stuffing yet? It was sage flavored and also pretty great.

Actually the things I liked the very best here turned out to be the side dishes. Collard greens to die for, mashed yams so sweet and loaded with pineapple and raisins and an elusive spice that was possibly cinnamon, you could have eaten them for dessert. Macaroni and cheese that was so full of cheese it could practically be outlawed.

I will however give up willingly the string beans. The string beans - and that's exactly what they are called on the blackboard menu by the way, no highfalutin' nomenclature here - were canned. I must also add that I thought the cornbread was stale.

Then it was time for dessert. The Peach Cobbler was hot and spicy and there was this inspired Pumpkin Pound Cake - not what anyone would call light, but who likes light cake anyway?

And a Banana Pudding to die for. All 'Nilla wafers and vanilla pudding.

SOUL FABULOUS ** 1/2

WHERE: 2607 Bailey Ave. (893-5945). A cafeteria that serves up a huge assortment of food for eating in or taking out. The emphasis is on old-time southern favorites. No beer or wine. No credit cards

FAVORITE DISH: Banana Pudding

NEEDS WORK: Cornbread

PRICE RANGE: Dinners that include an entree and two side dishes for $7.50

SERVICE: Good

HOURS: Sunday, Monday 1 p.m. to 3 a.m.; Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 to 3 a.m.

HEALTHY CHOICES: Broiled chicken, collard greens

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

PARKING: On the street

KID APPEAL: Sure

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