The casual Mama San Soul Shack taps into a current flavor trend, the mashup of Southern and Asian cuisines, and after being open in St. Johns for three weeks, it's just launched lunch (menu below). Describing his food as Southern and Asian soul food, chef Chris Hopkins serves okra fried in tempura batter, a bahn mi with coconut-milk-marinated pork topped with bonito, and a burger with cheddar, bacon, kimchi, mayo, lettuce, and tomato. The best-selling dish so far is the Banana Leaf Braised Pork Bowl, which pairs collard greens and kimchi and comes topped with a nori-and-sesame-seed-seasoned fried egg.
When Eater asked how he first discovered the similarities between cuisines, Hopkins said, "I grew up in the South, so I've always cooked Southern food. Then, I moved to Hawaii, and I started using more Asian ingredients."
Hopkins owns and operates Mama San with Rana Albert and Andy Boggs. Hopkins and Boggs met while working at Tasty N Alder, where they bonded over a shared love of skateboarding. Previously, Boggs helped to set up the bar program at Trifecta and owned the Huckleberry Bar in Williamsburg, New York.
Inside, Mama San Soul Kitchen seats around 25, and it has outdoor picnic tables and a patio for additional warm-weather seating. "Our kitchen is probably the size of most people's bathrooms," says Albert. Most of the dishes run $8-12 dollars, and it serves cocktails and has a full bar, as well as house-made juices.