A Q&A With Soul Bar At Pals in Atlanta

Meet Melissa and CJ — the duo behind the lively restaurant and local club Soul Bar at Pals, where some of the best soul food in ATL is served up. We tapped them to answer a few questions about their journey as female entrepreneurs as well as everything you’d ever want to know about their restaurant. Read on for more.

Q & A

Tell us your story in a short paragraph

“Melissa and I are what you might call serial entrepreneurs. We both come from families of entrepreneurs, so from the beginning we had a great connection and meshed well. We started our relationship by co-hosting parties together and sharing the same idea that the right partnerships would make or break our business.”

How did you get started in the restaurant industry?

“Individually, we always yearned for our own place to host events. We wanted a place where we could create our own vibe. So, we started looking for a place. It took us almost a year to find it and almost another year to rehab the space to our standards. Hence, November 2015 Soul Bar At Pals opened its doors.”

What does being women in the restaurant industry mean to you?

“Being women who own a restaurant is a dream come true. It means that with hard work, perseverance and faithfulness anyone can have a vision in their mind, realize their dreams, and reach their goals, no matter how impossible it seems to others.”

How has being female impacted the decisions you've made in your career? Your growth/career trajectory?

“Not quite sure if being women has impacted our decisions. We know who we are and because of that we have been able to embrace the fact that we are a little different from the average person, male or female. Also, knowing we have had family members who were and are still entrepreneurs makes it easier for us to dream big and have the courage to keep moving forward despite the odds against us.”

Who’s your inspiration in the culinary world?

Melissa: “My mother. She taught me the balance of seasonings and how good food should look and taste. This standard has been embedded in me since childhood. She would make traditional dishes as well as mix in new innovative ingredients.”

CJ: “We both were inspired by Chef Tasha Wong prior to opening Soul Bar. She was the chef at a restaurant where we started the longest running day party in the country. We, as well as our guests, fell in love with her cooking skills and scrumptious food. Once we decided to open Soul Bar it was no question who we wanted to help set up our kitchen and menu. She taught us so much about how to run it, keep it up and maximize its potential. Chef Wong gave us most of our special recipes for the good tasting food that we and our customers love so much.”

What's the best dish you've ever eaten that was prepared by a woman?

“The best dish we ever ever eaten is Coconut Curry Shrimp and Crab with Dumplings, also prepared by Chef Natasha Wong.”

What’s your go-to delivery dish?

“Our go-to delivery dish is smothered chicken, rice and gravy with collard greens, and a side a mac and cheese to top it off.”