Salem may be a long way from New Orleans, but it still has soul! Krewe du Soul is a new addition to our ever-growing restaurant scene. Jennifer and Steve Stephens are now proudly serving some N’awlins classics with a side of southern hospitality. What began as a food truck idea has serendipitously spawned into a brick and mortar setting. The historic Mission Mill, at the Willamette Heritage Center, is now home to the Cajun and creole operation. Notably, Krewe du Soul opened their doors on the auspicious celebratory date of Fat Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras, which fell on February 13 this year.
Every eatery has a story, and this one begins ten years ago at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival: “I was attending Jazzfest for my brother’s birthday, and had fallen in love with the culture, the people, the music, and, of course, the food,” says Jen. The excitement about her time there was contagious to her husband, Steve; eventually they went back to experience NOLA life together. They began voraciously researching and reading about everything New Orleans. Steve, a full-time Keizer fire-fighter, had been pondering his plans for retirement; but, after multiple trips to NOLA, the bug of inspiration had taken hold. Initially, Steve dreamed of having a food truck to serve his southern fare; but he took a chance and applied for a spot at the Salem Saturday Market. His application was granted, and his culinary skills, along with fierce determination, allowed him and Jen to have a successful market season last year. Soon aftermarket, Steve spoke again about his food truck idea with a colleague who knew someone – who knew someone else–which eventually landed him inside an empty, kitchen-ready café at the Mission Mill. His business plan was altered numerous times before submission for a bank loan, and the rest is history.
The restaurant business is always risky, due to many variables and moving parts. “It’s been a steep learning curve, but recently I got some help managing the stress by hiring some new talent with experience in professional kitchens,” says Steve. “It’s developing, and we are dialing it in and figuring it out. It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of learning,” adds Jen. Since opening, she has since assumed the role of marketing director, while also working as a full-time nurse practitioner.
Steve and Jen have taken their time in the kitchen, recreating classic southern dishes sometimes adding a bit of northwestern flare. A fine example of this coast-to-coast fusion can be found in the first bite of their hazelnut beignets; hazelnuts being a major Oregon grown crop and beignets being a French- Louisianan doughnut. Another wonderful component of the Krewe du Soul menu is that it caters to omnivores, flexitarians, and vegans. A traditional New Orleans Seafood gumbo is hard to resist, but if your diet doesn’t allow for that selection, then the vegan gumbo is a perfect substitute. Fried green tomatoes, vegetarian collard greens (no ham), red beans & rice, andouille sausages, southern fried chicken, Cajun crawfish pasta, po’ boy sandwiches, round out the menu. A New Orleans favorite sandwich called a muffaletta, originated by its Italian immigrants, will soon be available. “I’m sourcing the bread and olive salad from Gambino’s Bakery in New Orleans to make them,” says Steve. Anyone from New Orleans would respond with a nod of approval to that statement. Breakfast is available, and you can even get a piping hot cup of original chicory coffee, which has made New Orleans’ Café du Monde an international destination since 1862.
Krewe du Soul will continue to offer Salem breakfast and lunch, as well as a full catering service for local events and parties. The best way to learn about their crawfish boil feasts, featuring real Louisiana crawfish, and their new dinner options beginning June 22nd, is to follow them on social media or check out www.krewedusoul.com. Next time you’re near Mission Mill grab a hearty Soul Cup —a combo of grits, gravy, hash browns, gravy, scrambled eggs, gravy, and a waterfall of bacon! Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Photos by Dee Proudfoot
Krewe du Soul
New Orleans Classics with a Northwest flare
Tues – Sun 8a-3p
Dinner – Fri, Sat 5-9p
Willamette Heritage Center
1313 Mill St. SE Salem,