New restaurant puts soul on La Salle

Jess Soul Food opens up and brings a new taste to Waco. Grace Everett | Photo Editor

By Avery Ballmann | Staff Writer

Jessica Horne, owner of Jess Soul Food, said she always knew she wanted to open a restaurant, as she began collecting kitchen equipment in 2004. Even before Xristo’s Cafe opened in 2017, 810 La Salle Avenue was on Horne’s radar. She said she thought the building would be a good spot for a restaurant.

When Xristo’s closed down because of the pandemic, Horne started looking into purchasing the building in February. Two days before her birthday, the owner of Xristo’s Cafe called Horne to see if she was still interested in the building; Horne accepted the offer and will have the grand opening of Jess Soul Food on Oct. 1.

“I mean, the thing about it is when God sets something straight for you and that’s what you want to do, that’s your passion, it just falls into place, ” Horne said.

This is Horne’s first restaurant, even though she has held many jobs in the food industry such as those with Coca-Cola, M&M Mars and USDA state meat services. She is now retired and said she decided it was time to live out her passion.

Jess Soul Food had a soft opening on Aug. 15. Horne said it was challenging at first because people didn’t know it was a restaurant. Since putting up signage, she said she has had more people come in.

“I love it because I’m a people person,” Horne said. “I love to feed people.”

As a child, Horne said she grew up watching her mother cook. Eventually, she and her older sister took the role of cooking for her family when her mother started working night shifts. At the age of 15, Horne said she was making full meals by herself, such as smothered kidneys over rice.

Cedar Park junior Shannon Streza had not tried soul food until her boyfriend introduced it to her last semester. Before trying it out, she said she thought soul food was only comfort food, not a separate cuisine. Now, she said she loves yams, fried catfish and shrimp.

“It’s so good,” Streza said. “I’m really excited about this new restaurant.”

Horne is not new to the Waco or Baylor area. When she was younger, Horne said she would walk to campus to see the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat. Horne said if a Baylor student came to her restaurant, she would suggest the “double-dip rib basket” — a smoked rib dipped and fried in batter with barbecue sauce drizzled over it.

“I’m actually really willing to try [Jess Soul Food],” Streza said. “I’m a huge foodie, so I really like to try new foods and new things.”

Horne’s restaurant serves breakfast from 6:30 to 10 a.m., featuring the famous waffle sandwich — a French toast-style waffle with peanut butter and jelly spread, beef sausage, bacon, a fried egg and maple syrup.

Horne also serves lunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and has a daily special that rotates between smothered pork chops, oxtails, baked chicken, meatloaf, spaghetti and chef salads.

Horne said she chose to serve soul food because “it’s a basket full of love.” It’s why she places baskets on each table that have a bottle of ketchup, hot sauce and pepper sauce. She said her favorite meal to cook is oxtail.

“I love oxtail because everybody can cook oxtails, but I can cook oxtail,” Horne said. “Meat will fall off the bone and make you want to eat the bones too.”

To serve Baylor students, Horne said that from now until Dec. 31, students who present their ID and buy a meal will receive a free drink at her restaurant.

“I almost feel a sense of pride being a Baylor student and getting offered all of these things,” Streza said. “It makes me feel a little more seen, more heard and more recognized.”

To stay updated with lunch specials and grand opening details, follow Jess Soul Food’s Facebook page.

“I have always been passionate about Baylor and just feeding people,” Horne said. “That’s the destiny that I feel like I need to be.”