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Southern spirit at Soleil in Dudley Square

By Devra First GLOBE STAFF  JUNE 28, 2018

Where to Soleil, a Southern-influenced restaurant in Dudley Square, in the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building space that was previously Tasty Burger.

What for Operator Cheryl Straughter used to run Keith’s Place in Grove Hall, known for its soul food and Sunday brunch. Now she’s bringing back its welcoming spirit in a new location.

The scene An L-shaped space with red accents and retro diner-esque touches. People enter from the street, passing beneath a light fixture made from Coke bottles, to order at the counter. There’s a mural on the wall of a Dudley-bound bus. Past a bar area are tables where people have lunch meetings and text while eating mac and cheese and fried chicken. Behind the counter, staffers grill ears of corn and line up bags for takeout orders. In the kitchen, someone is whistling while he works.

What you’re eating In the morning, you’ll find riffs on the egg sandwich, along with omelets, generous plates of eggs and grits with salmon cakes, and more. Sweet potato pancakes, waffles, and hash are here too. Lunch brings sandwiches and salads, but most people gravitate toward the steam table, stocked with fried and barbecue chicken, vegetable sides, and a huge tray of mac and cheese. There are also specials such as shrimp Creole over rice, apricot-ginger glazed fish, and Salisbury steak. Food is served until early evening; full dinner service is coming in a few weeks.

Care for a drink? There’s soda and juice, including something called Keith’s Krush: a blend of orange, apple, and cranberry. Beans come from Atomic Coffee Roasters. Beer, wine, and sangria will soon be on offer.

Overheard Talk of soul food, specials, and the lunchtime scene. “Barbecue or fried, barbecue or fried?” one customer debates. “The shrimp Creole is soooo good,” a staffer tells a woman at the counter, who orders it with a laugh: “See how you had to twist my arm?” Another guest arrives: “Ooh, here comes my favorite customer,” exclaims one employee. Someone tucks into her lunch. “How is it, love?,” a staffer asks. A thumbs-up is the wordless reply.