Oh My Soul weathers COVID storm, keeps bringing taste of South Africa to NoDa

Great food, live music, and a vibrant atmosphere. Sound like the restaurant around the corner? Well, the restaurant around the corner from me is all of that and then so much more.

If you haven’t checked out Oh My Soul yet, be sure to put it on your to-do list (it opened just days before the COVID-19 shutdown, so it might’ve flown under your radar). And if you’re an omnivore, don’t let the vegan menu scare you away. Owners Richard and Tallulah Duffin said many of the restaurant’s diners aren’t vegan but are instead just people wanting to step off the beaten path and try something new. Even before the first bite, I was thrilled to join their ranks; after it I was hooked!

The atmosphere

The original Oh My Soul Cafe is in Durban North, South Africa, and in opening the second location the team has worked hard to stay connected to those roots. From the vibrant Ndebele artwork patterns on the sidewalk, to the tabletops decorated with their national sports teams, to celebrating South African holidays like Heritage Day with a good, old-fashioned braai (aka barbecue), the taste of South Africa is not limited to our taste buds.

Then the restaurant tops it off with live music Fridays 7-10 p.m., Saturdays 3-6 p.m. and 7-10 p.m., and Sundays 1-4 p.m., along with surprise visits from their keyboardist when he has spare time. I mean, a musician who’s playing just because he loves music? Put some food in front of me, and that is a recipe for perfection. And on that note…

The food

As a self-proclaimed foodie, I have saved the best for last. As I mentioned before, totally not vegan here, and that was no problem. I was lucky enough to check Oh My Soul out on Heritage Day festivities, which is a day when togetherness is celebrated by grilling. Sign me up! Pap and gravy is always present at a South African barbecue, and from now on it will also be present at my table when I visit Oh My Soul. It’s a bit like a South African version of grits but with a savory, rich tomato sauce…excuse me while I wipe off some drool.

Also, with the new menu that was just launched at the end of October, the restaurant has added both some South African dishes and some more familiar ones as well, ranging from vegan Boerewors to a Cheddarmelt seitan steak. And if you’re ordering a drink, be prepared to try to wrap your tongue around pronouncing these foreign beauties. Saying, “that one with guava, tequila, and mint” won’t cut it. The cocktail is called an ‘Amagluglug’ – slang for petrol or gasoline in South Africa. Part of the fun is trying to say the name, and Richard said they have heard just about every pronunciation.

Having opened just 10 days before the COVID-19 shutdown, I am so grateful Oh My Soul weathered that storm and stuck with us. With such a beautiful outdoor seating space, this vibrant restaurant is giving our neighborhood community a taste of their heritage. And on that note, I think it’s time for dinner. Hope to see you there soon!