From fantastic fried chicken and waffles to gooey mac n’ cheese, this convivial spot serves up the best soul food on this side of the Atlantic.
Drop your buckets of KFC. Home-style fried chicken has finally landed on the planet Mars at Cornbread Marseille. It’s so finger-licking good you’ll want to put down your knife and fork and eat it with your hands, so good it must come from an American. But you can thank a français, not a Yankee, for bringing the American South to le Sud.
Inspired by his time living in Harlem, the success of fried-chicken joints in Paris, and his passion for hip hop and Black American culture, first-time restaurateur Illias opted to open a soul food joint in Marseille. A ballsy move considering he didn’t know a soul in the city nor about Southern cooking. But the ever-smiling entrepreneur got recipes from a friend in Atlanta, added a dash of French flair, and tested them until they were as smooth as an R&B jam.
Per tradition, he won’t spill the beans about his chicken recipe, but he does bathe it in buttermilk, the secret to juicy meat. Coated in the crunchiest batter, the chicken comes in the quintessential soul food duo, chicken n’ waffle, or its modern sandwich adaptation, a dripping delight with melted cheddar and crispy onions. Or, pair your chicken with a choice of homemade sides, like buttery biscuits, cornbread, sweet potato fries, or mac n’ cheese. Illias’ French version replaces the processed orange American stuff with Emmenthal and blue cheese. It’s as deliciously gooey as the original, but better (nb: “like aligot with noodles” says one fan.).
Dress up your dishes with classic condiments like honey butter, Grade B maple syrup, Heinz ranch sauce, and Tabasco. Spice-lovers should ask for the house-made piri piri sauce. The freshly baked desserts rotate, from a chocolate layer cake to a panna-cotta like cheesecake with a Speculoos crust. Wash the comfort food down with homemade juices and Jamaican ginger beer—n.b. no alcohol is served here.
In a sliver of a space steps from Place Jean Jaures, Cornbread Marseille fits right into Cours Julien’s eclectic food scene. In contrast to the hood’s colorful street art, the black and white décor is chill, as are the hip-hop albums on the walls and vinyl record placemats atop the Formica tables. You can order the chicken to go with Deliveroo. But it tastes better accompanied by the groove of Raphael Saadiq and Mos Def on Illias’ hip-hop playlists.
Le petit plus : Stay tuned for a Saturday brunch menu, which will include pancakes and eggs to ease into the weekend.
By Alexis Steinman