MERIDEN — More than a week after opening, Mind, Body and Soul Food owner Deja Durant says lines are often wrapped around the corner of the shop.
“I'm happy to be open, but it's definitely a lot of work,” he said. “They've been showing up so much and wiping us out.”
The new soul food spot, which opened July 18, is at 511 W. Main St. It’s mostly set up for takeout, but has limited bar stool seating inside and some picnic tables outdoors.
Durant, a lifelong Meriden resident, previously owned a clothing store in the city. He started work on the restaurant earlier this year, with co-owner and chef John Small.
Since opening, Durant has changed the hours slightly and refocused the menu. Before you could get things like a hot dog or Philly cheesesteak, now it’s focused just on soul food classics featuring chicken, fish and vegetables.
“You're getting more comfort food, like more pork chops, you're getting more chicken, you're getting more sides like vegetables, yams, potatoes, green beans,” he said.
The mac and cheese and collard greens have been the most popular item, Durant said.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic Durant only allows about three customers inside at a time, and said there’s often a line out the door and around the side of the building.
“It’s good for business but I hate making people wait,” Durant said. “I'd rather someone wait an hour, an hour and a half for great food then to rush and make them some quick meal and send them on their way and get a bad review about the food.”
Even so, Durant said some have complained about the wait time or that they can’t get through on the phone because things are too busy. He asks people to be patient.
“I let all my customers know if something's not right, come back, talk to me,” he said. “Pull me to the side and I'm gonna make it right for you.”
Maloney High School football coach Kevin Frederick said he’s visited the restaurant twice. Frederick and Durant played football at Platt High School growing up and remained friends.
“It’s a very welcoming environment. You walk in there and you just wanna stay for a bit,” Frederick said. “It’s nice to have a little spot like that in my town.”
He said he tried most of the food— including the wings, mac and cheese, Jamaican beef patty, and fish— and thought it was “phenomenal.”
Frederick said he feels Durant is a role model for starting a business in the midst of a pandemic.
Mind, Body and Soul Food is open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. and Saturday noon to 6 p.m. It also does catering. Local delivery service is planned, Durant said.