While out for coffee, Ottawa’s self-proclaimed Soul Food King, LeRoy Walden spotted his former neighbour. After a big hug, he shared the news that he closed his restaurant and is about to launch a food truck this spring. The first question out of her mouth was: “You’re still going to make fried chicken, right?”
Was there any doubt? LeRoy’s name is synonymous with fried chicken in these parts. And he likes it that way. My question is: What took him so long?
Back in 2008, I directed Ottawa Magazine readers to a little place I’d found called Jean Albert’s. It was a cottage off the highway in the quiet rural Ontario town of Hallville where — lo and behold — Walden, a Detroit record producer, was serving up his grandma’s super-succulent crispy batter-fried chicken and other comfort food recipes with tall glasses of fresh lemonade and sweet tea at picnic tables in his wife’s hometown.
It’s safe to say, it was the first authentic American Soul Food restaurant in the national capital region.
For people who were less familiar with the hearty home cooking of the American south, it was the first chance to try things like sweet corn pancakes, fried catfish, collard greens, and black-eyed peas. But as it turns out, soul food is easy to love. Jean Albert’s soon moved to the city to be closer to its fans and had a second life in a little house on Somerset street.