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Restaurateur opens Southern soul-food restaurant on University Parkway
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Restaurateur opens Southern soul-food restaurant on University Parkway

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Sonya Waddell has created an upscale version of her popular soul-food restaurant.

Simply Sonya’s opened Nov. 19 at 3050 University Parkway inside the Best Western Plus that lies between Joel Coliseum and the campus of Wake Forest University.

It is a slightly more grown-up version of her Simply Soul Restaurant at 4339 S. Main St. “We’ve jazzed it up a little,” Waddell said. “But the main difference is the bar menu.”

Waddell and her former husband opened Simply Soul in 2012, serving such soul-food favorites as fried pork chops, meatloaf, mac ’n’ cheese and collard greens. After the two parted ways, Waddell took over the restaurant in 2016 and has run it herself ever since.

Waddell said she grew up watching her mother cater at church and for family and friends. “I was her little sous-chef. That’s how I kind of got into it,” Waddell said. “I just fell in love with the whole thing. Everything I’m doing in life right now is a tribute to her. My mom was a single mom with five kids. She had a full-time job, raised us and did catering as a side job.”

She remembers when as a child, her siblings spilled the beans about who Santa Claus really was. “When I realized Mama was buying all those toys, and that her catering paid for it, that made me appreciate the value of hard work,” Waddell said.

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Waddell said she almost opened a second restaurant five years ago – in the very same space. “When the new owners bought this and they were renovating it, I looked at it – but then they decided to go in another direction,” she said. “The timing just wasn’t right.”

But when she saw that the spot was available again, the deal came together quickly, she said. “I knew them from before. They knew what I wanted to do, so there was a quick turnaround.”

Simply Sonya’s is open for lunch and dinner daily. The hotel continues to use the dining room in the mornings for its free continental breakfast, but Waddell is not involved with that.

The restaurant seats about 70 and will have the same menu for lunch and dinner, though many items are offered in small and large portions.

Fans of Simply Soul will recognize much of the menu. Entrees include fried chicken ($9/$12), pork ribs ($13/$16), salmon croquette ($11/$14) and chicken and waffles ($11). Exclusive to Simply Sonya’s is a red-velvet version of the chicken and waffles ($13).

Simply Sonya’s also offers such sandwiches as chicken-salad croissant ($8), fried fish ($8) and a beef or vegan burger ($9). There also are chicken wings ($7 for 6 wings, or $12 for 12), and such appetizers as fried pickles ($6), home fries ($6), and pub soft pretzel ($6).

Homemade desserts ($5) include lemon and five-flavor pound cakes, red velvet cake, banana pudding and peach cobbler. There also will be special “surprise” desserts, Waddell said. She also sells whole cakes on request.

Beverages include tea, lemonade and the Bray Boy (red Kool-Aid and lemonade).

Unlike Simply Soul, Simply Sonya’s will serve alcohol. Among the signature cocktails are the Simply Sonya ($10, Ciroc vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and pineapple juice); the Ragin’ Ram ($8, Smirnoff vodka, margarita mix, strawberry puree) and The Deacon ($8, Jim Beam, triple sec, sour mix and ginger ale).

Waddell is planning to have live music — either a solo act or small combo — at least once a month. She also is planning a grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Dec. 12.




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