Mahi Taco with fries.
Mahi Taco with fries. (Esther Allweiss Ingber)

The appealing, beautiful lineup of items at Soul Café makes deciding difficult.

On my recent visit to Soul Café in West Bloomfield, the Ricotta Blueberry Pizza I sampled — a fetching, house-made crust topped with sweetened whipped ricotta cheese, blueberry coulis and random shreds of mint — gave me a fresh reminder that kosher dining can be quite innovative.

“Diners responded well to our poll about their favorite new items on our spring-summer menu,” said Shalom Shomer, director of operations. My pizza was No.1. Providing input on the seasonal menu was Tim Maraj, the restaurant’s executive chef since August 2019. Maraj, who formerly chefed at Novi Chophouse, said cooking at Soul Café, a kosher dairy restaurant, is “definitely a change,” but one he enjoys. 

Esther Allweiss Ingber
Esther Allweiss Ingber

The Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Greater Detroit provides the kashrut supervision at Soul Café. Hours are 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday through Friday. The restaurant is inside Farber Soul Center, a facility that extends the programming offered by Friendship Circle of Michigan, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Lubavitch of Michigan. 

Young adults with special needs, the focus of Friendship Circle, find an inclusive environment at Soul Center. Clients receive guidance to create, and sometimes sell, the arts and crafts they make in Soul Center’s Dresner Foundation Soul Studio. Another option for the young adults is vocational training, including paid employment. They learn restaurant skills at Soul Café, or the bakery trade at Dakota Bread-Friendship Circle on Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield. Friendship Circle purchased the popular gourmet Jewish bakery in October 2020 from its retiring owners. Job training is currently offered to “15 Soul Center clients, with another 21 on a waiting list,” Shomer said.

Bassie Shemtov is executive director of Friendship Circle, founded in 1994 with her husband, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, and eight volunteers. She oversees Soul Center and with Shomer, Soul Café.

“We offer healthy, fresh kosher food for everyone in a warm, nonjudgmental environment,” Bassie said.

General Tso’s Cauliflower with Asian-style dipping sauce
General Tso’s Cauliflower with Asian-style dipping sauce Esther Allweiss Ingber
New on the Menu 

New breakfast-type items on the Soul Café menu include Smoked Fish Plate; Crepe filled with lox, scrambled egg, spinach, mushrooms and feta; and a colorful Breakfast Bowl. I went with everything offered in the bowl but the poached egg (a personal dislike). Otherwise, I enjoyed the assortment of crumbly coconut “bacon,” red cabbage, avocado slices, spinach, house potato cubes and rainbow carrot ribbons, plus savory kale-walnut pesto. Sweet choices newly introduced are Lemon Ricotta Pancakes and Cinnamon Sugar French Toast Sticks.

The “Lunch Starters” list includes a new Cheeseboard and my next choice: General Tso’s Cauliflower Bites. The lightly battered and slightly spicy chunks were served with an Asian-style dipping sauce. New salads to try include Ginger Garden, Greek and Power Bowl, including barbecued tofu.

Ricotta Blueberry pizza
Ricotta Blueberry pizza Esther Allweiss Ingber

Under “Sandwiches,” diners can now choose Mahi Taco — two corn tortillas filled with nice-sized pieces of the tasty fish and flavorful lime cilantro slaw, pico de gallo and salsa verde. I really liked these. Pesto and Cajun Salmon Alfredo are new pastas this season.

Dessert eaters may fancy the addition of soft-serve ice cream in flavors of chocolate, vanilla and both in a swirl.

Accompanying meals, or to enjoy separately, are non-alcoholic beverages that include Chazzano Coffee Roasters, Starbucks Coffee, espresso drinks and smoothies.

Breakfast Bowl
Breakfast Bowl Esther Allweiss Ingber

Note that Soul Café retains the most popular items on its changing menus. My favorite, Ancient Grain Salad, has dates, apples, caramelized onion, sweet potato, quinoa, seeds and greens, with a silan (sweet syrup made from dates) vinaigrette. For more complexity, add optional avocado, salmon and/or tuna salad. 

The appealing, beautiful lineup of items at Soul Café makes deciding difficult. After ordering, food and beverages can be enjoyed in the white main dining room. The rotating artwork of Soul Studio artists gives the airy space the feeling of a gallery. In addition to regular tables, as many as 12 diners may gather at a high-top communal table toward the back wall. A separate carpeted room handles overflow dining, usually on busy Sundays, and may be rented for business meetings, bridal showers and other events. 

For anyone wanting a little fresh air this summer, Soul Café also offers seating on its large covered patio. 

Executive Chef Tim Maraj, left, and Director Shalom Shomer
Executive Chef Tim Maraj, left, and Director Shalom Shomer Esther Allweiss Ingber

Soul Café at Friendship Circle’s Farber Soul Center
5586 Drake Road
West Bloomfield, MI 48322
(248) 788-7400
$$$½ out of $$$$$

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