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Chef Deborah VanTrece Prepares to Reopen Her Modern Soul Food Restaurant on Juneteenth

The dining room at Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours reopens to the public June 19, three months after closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Pomegranate glazed quail at Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours in Atlanta, GA
Pomegranate glazed quail
Henri Hollis

Chef Deborah VanTrece reopens the dining room at Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours on Friday, June 19, after shutting down the Huff Road restaurant on Atlanta’s west side in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the dining room closure, VanTrece and her small team successfully pivoted to takeout, including offering “Fish Fry Fridays” and adding a now permanent chicken-centric carryout restaurant to the business called “A Different Kind of Chick.” To help those facing financial difficulties due to layoffs or reduced hours, VanTrece even implemented a “pay what you can” option as part of Twisted Soul’s takeout service.

The chef has taken her time in preparing Twisted Soul and her staff for reopening day this Friday. Despite the ability to reopen the restaurant at full capacity, VanTrece plans to stick with the guidelines set forth by the CDC for restaurants, along with those required by the state.

The dining room features fewer tables which are spaced further apart to allow at least six feet between dining parties. Tables are shielded and separated from one another by Plexiglass dividers. Diners are required to wear masks before being seated or when moving about the restaurant or using the restroom. Bar seating remains off limits for now. The front patio is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are also required, and dining is limited to 90 minutes.

Both the dividers and installing a high-tech UV air filtration system set the restaurant back $7,400.

“When we made the decision to reopen, it was because we felt confident that we could do so with the safety of our guests and staff as our top priority,” VanTrece tells Eater Atlanta. “We expect our guests to respect the safety guidelines that we have put in place. We don’t feel pressure to go back to a full dining room and bar without social distancing and masks. We’ll get there one day, but not until the pandemic is completely contained.”

VanTrece says reopening Twisted Soul on June 19, or “Juneteenth,” wasn’t a “conscious choice.” Juneteenth marks the end of slavery in the United States, and is the nation’s oldest commemoration. All but four states celebrate Juneteenth as a holiday or official observance.

But the magnitude of the date’s importance, coupled with the current protests around the country shining a spotlight on racial inequality in America, means reopening the dining room to the public on Juneteenth carries with it a special significance.

“This is a special moment in time. The country has been rallying together to shine a light on racial inequality. I believe that food is a shared communal experience that helps bring us together, so our reopening is significant in many ways.”

Current dining room hours: Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours

1133 Huff Road Northwest, , GA 30318 (404) 350-5500 Visit Website

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