Photo by Kelli Ebensberger
There is an evident void in local cuisine: While there are quite a few great barbeque joints in town, the selection is far more limited when it comes to dishing up homestyle soul food. Enter Sugapeach.
Following the closure of Sweetiepie’s in Cedar Rapids, the Iowa Soul Food Company opened this new establishment in North Liberty this past summer. The restaurant proudly boasts inspiration from great soul food restaurants around the country, from Captain’s Hard Times Diner in Chicago to Paschal’s in Atlanta. Sugapeach offers a warm environment that works well for fast lunches on the go and sit-down meals with the family. Striving to serve quality, authentic soul food at an affordable price, they deliver on taste and offerings for even the pickiest eater in the group.
A young man greeted me enthusiastically at the cafeteria-style walk up counter, showcasing the expansive selection of sides. After I revealed that this was my first visit, he helped me settle on the Teaser, an entree including one piece of fried fish and one piece of fried chicken (wing or strip). Each entree comes with two sides — I got collard greens and dirty rice — and a cornbread muffin.
The customer after me got a fried fish sandwich, which looked so good I almost switched my order halfway through. (Note: I didn’t and I’m glad, but I will definitely be getting that sandwich next time I visit.)
Both proteins came out of the kitchen so hot they were audibly sizzling as I walked to the table. The chicken strip was succulent and juicy; it glistened when pulled apart, and the breading was light and crisp. The fish was mild in flavor and so flaky it practically melted in my mouth. The cornmeal breading on the filet was my favorite part of the whole meal. Perfectly seasoned, it provided a wonderful crunch and was a sturdy vehicle for their sauces; I sampled a delicious hot sauce that balanced a vinegar, habanero heat with a sticky sweetness. They also offered tarter sauce and ranch dressing.
The dirty rice had a mild spiciness and classic add-ins like red beans, onions and green peppers. Don’t get overzealous and douse this rice in hot sauce; the heat builds as you go. The collard greens were cooked down with smoked turkey, and were bitter and savory in the best possible way. The cornbread muffin was the perfect ending to the meal, mildly sweet and dense. However, if you have a major sweet tooth, Sugapeach also offers Southern classics like sweet potato pie and peach cobbler.
From the friendly staff to delicious, feel-good food, Sugapeach brings the best of soul to eastern Iowa.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 213.