Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place has served the Kennedy-King Neighborhood and beyond since it first opened in 1988. Jessie Johnson White established the restaurant to share her southern-style soul food with the community. She opened Kountry Kitchen first as a six-seat countertop diner, but by using her own and her daughter Nell’s recipes and by creating an inviting atmosphere, it grew steadily over the years. Located at 1831 North College Avenue, Kountry Kitchen became a neighborhood favorite.

Isaac and Cynthia Wilson, owners of Kountry Kitchen, 2009 Credit: Danese Kenon, IndyStar View Source

When Jessie and Nell passed away, Isaac Wilson, husband of the late Nell, became Kountry Kitchen’s owner. He continued serving the same catfish, chicken wings, mac and cheese, cornbread, and more that first made Kountry Kitchen a soul food staple of Indianapolis, and later his new wife Cynthia joined him. “Food is a bridge,” said Cynthia Wilson. “When you walk through the door, you’re family no matter who you are.” In this same spirit, Kountry Kitchen initiated programs to give back to the community. In 2007, the restaurant began serving free Christmas Day dinners and distributing free winter hats and gloves to people in need. For more than a decade, Kountry Kitchen has been serving roughly 3,000 free Christmas dinners a year.

Kountry Kitchen also has been a favorite stop for celebrities. Future President Barack Obama visited the restaurant while in Indiana campaigning for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in the May 2008 state primary elections. Local politicians and sports figures have frequented it, and nationally known celebrities like comedian Jimmy Fallon, actress Taraji P. Henson, and actor Idris Elba have eaten there. The Food Network, a national lifestyle network, selected Kountry Kitchen as one of the best soul food restaurants in the U.S. for its Top 5 Restaurants series in 2016. Actor Mike Epps, who grew up in the neighborhood, visits regularly and advocates for the restaurant.

Garrett Holland (right), waits to pick up about 30 meals that he’ll deliver to folks in need, at Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place, 2019 Credit: Robert Scheer, Indianapolis Star via Imagn Content Services, LLC View Source

In 2016, Kountry Kitchen received a $400,000 grant from Insight Development, an arm of the Indianapolis Housing Agency, to expand and add new jobs. On January 11, 2020, a fire destroyed its century-old building. The community rallied around the restaurant, raising over $50,000, including a large donation from Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, to help reopen. During the 2020 COVID pandemic, Kountry Kitchen managed to stay in business by serving carry-out and catering through pop-up events out of a temporary location.

Using nearly $200,000 that had not been spent from its Insight Development grant and with the support of advisors, neighborhood leaders, the city of Indianapolis, Old National Bank, and others, the Wilsons accumulated enough funds to rebuild the Kountry Kitchen at its original College Avenue location. The groundbreaking for the new restaurant and event space took place in June 2022.

City leaders including Mayor Joe Hogsett, City-County Council President Vop Osili and comedian Mike Epps joined Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place owners Cynthia and Issac Wilson for a groundbreaking ceremony, 2022 Credit: Abriana Herron, Indianapolis Recorder View Source

Revised December 2022

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