The People’s Place: Soul Food Restaurants and Reminiscences from the Civil Rights Era to Today

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. loved the fried catfish and lemon icebox pie at Memphis’s Four Way restaurant. Beloved nonagenarian chef Leah Chase introduced George W. Bush to baked cheese grits and scolded Barack Obama for putting Tabasco sauce on her gumbo at New Orleans’s Dooky Chase’s. When SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael asked Ben’s Chili Bowl owners Ben and Virginia Ali to keep the restaurant open during the 1968 Washington, DC, riots, they obliged, feeding police, firefighters, and student activists as they worked together to quell the violence.

Celebrated former Chicago Sun-Times columnist Dave Hoekstra unearths these stories and hundreds more as he travels, tastes, and talks his way through twenty of America’s best, liveliest, and most historically significant soul food restau­rants. Following the “soul food corridor” from the South through northern industrial cities, The People’s Place gives voice to the remarkable chefs, workers, and small business owners (often women) who provided sustenance and a safe haven for civil rights pioneers, not to mention presidents and politicians; music, film, and sports legends; and countless everyday, working-class people.

Featuring lush photos, mouth-watering recipes, and ruminations from notable regulars such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, jazz legend Ramsey Lewis, Little Rock Nine member Minnijean Brown, and many others, The People’s Place is an unprecedented celebration of soul food, community, and oral history.

Meet the Authors

DAVE HOEKSTRA is the host of the radio program Nocturnal Journal with Dave Hoekstra on WGN-720 AM. A Chicago Sun-Times columnist from 1985 to 2014, he is also the author of The Supper Club Book,Cougars and Snappers and Loons (Oh My!), and Ticket to Everywhere. CHAKA KAHN is a musician whose unique blend of jazz, rock, funk, soul, disco, and pop has earned her 10 Grammy Awards. In 1999 she established the Chaka Khan Foundation, which assists at-risk children. PAUL NATKIN is a professional photographer who has photographed major music stars since the mid-1960s, including Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Tina Turner, and countless others. His images have appeared in CreemEbony, JetNewsweekPeopleRolling Stone, and Spin, among others.

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