Chicken & sweet potato waffles? Taste of SOUL brings new flavor, sounds to Burlington City
Nancy Miller was born to cook.
She sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night with an idea for a new recipe. She sits up and thinks about it, then heads back to sleep.
“Yes, I live it, I dream it and I sleep it,” Miller said. “I can get up in the middle of the night and I’m like, let me come up with that.”
What Miller has cooked up recently is a new restaurant.
The Pennsauken resident recently opened Taste of SOUL at 345 High Street in Burlington City. It has her signature soul food that she served for many years at Ms. Nancy’s Place in Merchantville, a restaurant she closed recently due to issues with the building.
“It’s been opened since New Year’s Eve,” said Miller of her new business, for which she is owner and chef. “It’s really been doing well. God blessed me with that before we found out about the issues with Ms. Nancy’s. It has definitely been a blessing with the Taste of SOUL. We have live bands, live poetry, spoken word. It’s much bigger than Ms. Nancy’s.”
She said with Taste of SOUL, she’s trying to “bring soul back to our heritage. I’m trying to bring food and music together. I did a lot of research in our music as well and I believe in spiritual soul. If you look at the logo the taste and of is lowercase but the word SOUL, it comes from the heart and that’s what I believe in. Not just the food, the music has to match the food.”
On a recent Friday, the venue hosted spoken word poetry, comedy and music.
“It’s really laid-back, it’s old-school,” she said.
Taste of SOUL is in a location where a soul food restaurant called Taste of Heaven was briefly. Previously, a restaurant called Taste It Creole was in the spot as well.
“The reason why I continued with the 'taste' name, the person who owns the building, she is originally from Haiti,” Miller said. “When she first came to New Jersey, she opened up a restaurant called Taste It Creole. She was the first African-American female to own a restaurant in Burlington City. Her being the first one and me possibly being the last one at the location, I wanted to not have her name go down in vain because she was the first one. She started the name taste. She was well known in the community and did a lot in the community here.
“I was community-based at Ms. Nancy’s and I’m trying to still be very community-based in Burlington, as well.”
Her restaurant joins a host of other restaurants which have recently opened in the historic city located at the base of the Burlington-Bristol Bridge.
On a recent Tuesday morning, customers began coming in for breakfast. One regular got his order of fish and grits. One of Miller's signature dishes is chicken and sweet potato waffles with agave caramel and French vanilla cream drizzle, and then there are the milk-chocolate waffles.
“We’ve got some good things going on there and they’re good sellers, as well,” said Miller, who said a popular item for customers is her multi-fruit iced tea, which she makes by brewing decaffeinated black tea leaves, then steeping them with fruits for hours.
Miller went over and stirred a container of sweet potatoes, then checked on the collard greens, the green beans and the grits. Two huge trays of macaroni and cheese were taken out of the oven. Chicken was in the fryer and later turkey wings were on tap.
One of the unique things about Miller’s cooking is it’s “healthy” soul food.
A former nutritionist who attended Philadelphia Art Institute, Miller doesn’t use sugar, salt or butter in her dishes, instead agave nectar is used for sweetener, while a special spice blend is used for flavoring and grapeseed oil is used in the fryers. She doesn’t use pork products, either.
“I actually went to Cozumel, Mexico, to learn to cook and bake with agave,” she said.
Her recipes are in her head and she teaches her assistants by doing and allowing them to do it. It’s in their heads, as well.
Zahara “Zee” Meadows, who has been assisting Miller in the kitchen, says she’s learned a lot, including using a thermometer with the meats to make sure their cooked just right.
“I used to not like to cook because my grandmom used to say, ‘You’ve got to do it like this, don’t do it like that,’ but now I love it because now I don’t hear that so much because I’m actually doing it and learning it for myself,” said Meadows, who lives around the corner from the restaurant. “It’s like the saying practice makes perfect. You keep doing it, you learn it.”
'THIS IS WHAT WE DO'
Miller, a Philadelphia native, has loved cooking since elementary school.
“We took charm class in the second grade,” she said with a smile. “It was a blessing. It kept us motivated. We were also athletic. I ran track for many years. Charm class was my sanity because I love to cook. I love to bake. She taught us how to bake from scratch.
“… This is what I do and I love to do it. I go to different islands when I go on vacation and I find out about their native foods. Once I learn about their native foods, how they train and how they like to eat, I try to implement it into foods that we like to eat here.”
Nancy Miller, a Pennsauken resident, is the owner and chef and her restaurant offers soulful music and entertainment as well. Cherry Hill Courier-Post
Miller, 44, is married to childhood sweetheart Carl, and the pair have a daughter Sabria, 17, and son C.J., 13.
She’s known as the “cake lady” in Philadelphia for the custom cakes she’s made for years. “I’ve made cakes for Joan Jett, Aerosmith, Jamie Foxx, Usher,” she said.
Miller is enjoying her new restaurant and says the Merchantville mayor has reached out about getting her to open up again in town in a different location, which is something she’s interested in.
She doesn’t let the day-to-day get her rattled. The phone at her business continues to ring with orders, and Miller calmly answers the calls, explaining to one woman that the turkey wings had about 45 minutes more to cook.
“I put everything in God’s hands,” Miller said. “In the morning before I come in, I pray, but I also pray with my staff. You don’t see anyone in here all rattled. The orders are coming in. This is what we do. I try to keep everybody focused. With focus through His eyes. He is the captain of this ship and we’re only the passengers so He has to drive us through it.
“Even when we have difficult situations, that’s where we just look up and are like, ‘Lord just help us make it through it.’ It always comes through. He never puts in front of us what we can’t handle.”
Celeste E. Whittaker: @cp_CWhittaker; 856-486-2437; email@example.com
If you go
Taste of SOUL is located at 345 High Street in Burlington City. It is opened Wednesday through Sunday. The hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. Call (609) 531-2451
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