vivians soul food

Restaurant of the Week: Vivian’s Soul Food

Vivian’s Soul Food is located on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids, just minutes from downtown, and specializes in soul food and bringing traditional Southern meals to Eastern Iowa. Its mission is to “bring people of all walks of life and backgrounds together through soul food.”

Opened in June of 2017, Vivian’s has a number of accolades behind its name, including being voted “Best Soul Food” in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area for two years straight and the “#1 Recommended Restaurant in Iowa” in 2019. Just this month, Vivian’s opened a second location on the northeast side of town, which is a spin-off of the original location, and offers express items for those who are on the go.

This husband-and-wife-owned restaurant started with only nine, four-top tables, and before they knew it, word of mouth spread and they soon started having lines out the door and around the building. That led to their current location to accommodate for the growth in popularity. Jerome and Briana Smallwood, co-owners of Vivian’s, believe their success has been attributed to being genuine and transparent with the community.

Once you step inside Vivian’s, you are greeted with friendly staff, clean and socially distanced tables, an inviting bar and artwork that proudly features African American pop culture artwork. The various pieces on the wall pay tribute to African American culture, which is also displayed through the music being played and the quality soul food you will receive each time you visit. The atmosphere is cozy and casual, with vibrant colors throughout the restaurant, making it a great spot to meet friends for lunch, bring the family for a home-cooked dinner or impress out-of-town friends or family.

You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but a few popular choices are the Iowa’s Best Fried Chicken and the Louisiana shrimp. The fried chicken is tender and juicy, fried and seasoned perfectly and delivers that crunch we all want when eating fried chicken. This dish comes with three assorted pieces of chicken (two on the lunch portion), two sides of your choosing and a delightful cornbread muffin. There are more than 10 sides options you can choose from, but the collard greens and baked mac and cheese are what Vivian’s is known for. The collard greens are flavorful and have a spice to it, while the baked mac is creamy, savory and completes this Southern meal beautifully. The Louisiana shrimp is great for either an appetizer to share or to eat as a meal. The grilled jumbo shrimp are served with the tail-on and covered in a Cajun spices and tossed in a sweet-and-spicy sauce.

If you are dining in, the bar is stocked with all of your alcoholic and non-alcoholic needs. The cocktail menu pairs with the food menu and includes cocktails, like The Southern Peach.

Vivian’s is open for dine-in or take-out and has an online ordering option. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 7 p.m. It is closed on Mondays.

For more information about Vivian’s Soul Food, visit

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