Lillie Mae’s House of Soul Food recently made its home in Tracy, California, bringing nostalgic flavors, comfort, and an authentic southern dining experience along for the ride. Chef Rhonda Manning, the owner of Lillie Mae’s, learned everything she knows about soul food cooking from her beloved grandmother, Lillie Mae herself. As a Mountain House resident, she wanted her cooking to be shared closer to home (her first restaurant is located in Santa Clara). Is it lunch time yet?! For those who don’t know, can you explain the concept of your restaurant? Basically our food is cooked from the soul: Fried chicken, catfish, collard greens, mac and cheese, etc. The main staples for good comfort food. What was it about cooking as a child that made you want to become a professional chef? Just watching my grandmother and my mom. They cooked with so much passion and really cared about how things were prepared. They also loved to invite others over: friends, family, everyone. Something that I think makes Lillie Mae’s standout is that we make sure everyone’s full when they’re finished, which was always instilled in me from my mom and grandmother. We know your grandmother, Lillie Mae, was the main inspiration behind opening the restaurant. Were there any other influences that sparked ideas for the menu, ambiance, etc.? My grandmother had a home in Oklahoma that was old and rustic, and we were so excited when the building for our restaurant in Santa Clara became available, because it was a fantastic resemblance to her home. Everything from the appearance to the menu was inspired from my mom and grandmother. Do you have a signature dish? Well, I’m always hearing people say, “oh my gosh, your collared greens are amazing!” I also get a lot of positive feedback about our mac & cheese, fried chicken, and cornbread. Do you have a favorite dish? I would also have to go with the mac & cheese and fried chicken, but the fried catfish is a close runner up. You recently opened a restaurant in Tracy, and your food truck has come to the Restaurant Nights here at Mountain House. What has been the best part about sharing your food with the community? Well, for one thing it’s the community I live in. It was great feeding them because all the people living there work in the Bay Area, so they would invite more people to come out and support us. It’s a very friendly, welcoming place to live. When can people start coming to your new restaurant in Tracy? The Grand Opening is the first week of April. There’s going to be a live band, a ribbon cutting, very family-friendly. Everyone is invited! We can’t wait to visit! Want to see what else is cookin’ at Lillie Mae’s? Check out the entire menu on their website HERE. Lillie Mae’s House of Soul Food is located at 400 Eleventh St, Tracy, CA 95376.