Soul food in Muncie may seem like a stretch when one has the appetite for it, but when you look into the options of a good ‘ole plate of comfort food, for some, Mama and Son, located in Downtown Muncie, is second to none.
Opening last summer, Mama and Son became the new face of Muncie soul food and the new sanctuary for Connie Nixon and her son Dominique Isom.
Both hailing from Muncie, the mother-son duo were given an opportunity by the previous owner of the restaurant that would change their lives forever.
“Well, I was already a manager here,” Nixon said. “It was another restaurant here, and my son was supposed to start a restaurant in Morristown, so when [the previous owner] decided to let it go she asked me if I would like to take over for her soul food restaurant. Since my son was already doing it, I asked him if he wanted to start one here in Muncie. He said yes, and this is how it started.”
As soon as Mama and Son opened, Nixon and Isom were immediately accepted because of their acclaimed reputation in the kitchen. Not only are they receiving gratification for being one of the best soul food restaurants in Muncie, but some consider them one of the best restaurants in Muncie period.
“The fact of us being out there with, like, an Olive Garden or an Applebee’s and being considered top five chicken and catfish places in Muncie is amazing,” Isom said. “People love the soul food, and they know that it is real soul food even though we are from Indiana … Everybody thinks we're from the South and that’s truly a great thing.”
People from all over Muncie fell in love with Mama and Son because of the ingredients that very few people mention when cooking: love.
“Hopefully we impact the city in a good way,” Nixon said. “They can tell by the love in the food that we cook because that’s how we do it … They asked us for our recipes and we say the main thing is love because we love what we do.”
Mama and Son was built off the passion for doing what you love and giving back. The genuine morals and values Nixon and Isom both carry are truly the reason for the restaurant gaining its attention through not only Muncie but the whole state of Indiana.
The goals Nixon had when she started Mama and Son weren’t even for herself, they were intended for the people whom she truly appreciates and those who aspire to chase their dreams.
“Our biggest goal was to give back to the community not for us to get rich or anything is to give back to the community,” Nixon said. “We would also like to have another bigger building because as small as it is, we can't fit a whole lot of people in here … So we would love to expand so that way a lot more people can come and enjoy the food.”
Going into business with his mother, Isom said he is deeply appreciative of the time they have when dealing with the restaurant. She taught him how to cook when he was young, and since he can share the same passion his mother has, he can feel right at home.
“It means everything because when you do something with family, it makes you stronger too,” Isom said. “She mentored me and taught me how to cook, so who else can I trust more than her? ... When I'm in the restaurant it feels just like home.”
Now going into business with her son, Nixon is still in awe about everything, as she is truly living in the moment with him and only looking forward to the future with it all being up from here for Mama and Son Soul Food.
“It is priceless,” Nixon said. “I never thought that we would do this, but I know that god is with my son … He has compassion for food just like me and he has a big heart and that's what I love most about my son.”
The compassion that goes into the food at Mama and Son is filled with nothing but love. On the restaurant's menu, there is an item listed as “The Motley Special” in dedication and remembrance of a long-time friend of Nixon.
“Miss Motley was a long-time friend and also a long-time customer at the previous restaurant where she always wanted one piece of catfish, two whole wings, two sides and a drink, but it was never available,” Nixon said. “Around the time we opened the restaurant Motley passed away, so we made her desired combo a special feature on our menu in her honor.”
The Motley Special is featured on the menu all six days Mama and Son is open for the week. The restaurant also has deals where a certain menu item is catered to a certain day, such as one of their most popular “Tenderloin Tuesdays.”
When it comes to the food aspect of Mama and Son, many can say they enjoy it, but many need to learn about another aspect of the restaurant.
After hours when every pot and pan is cleaned and put away, Isom utilizes the restaurant as a venue for Muncie and Ball State University-related events. This has been on the bucket list for Isom and his family for a while as they firmly believe in community outreach.
“Back then at Ball State, they used to tell them you can't mingle out in Muncie because you don’t know the people, they could do whatever to you,” Isom said. “Well, what I wanted to do was let them [Ball State Students] know that you have a good time here.”
As a great place for friends to hang out, Mama and Son’s outreach to the community has shown how active the restaurant is on a day-to-day basis. Customers come and go but to Nixon and Isom it is more than that.
“On average, I see at least a good 30 faces a day,” Isom said. “And half of those familiar faces, every time they came, they'll come in and we already know what they want before they even place the order.”
Mama and Son not only value the saying “The Customer’s Always Right,” but they also always value the saying “ The Customer is your Family.” That is why the foundation of Mama and Son was built on “Family.” Even those who are, you must always treat those with the love, care, and respect as you would your mother.
Kaleb Chambers is a long-time customer of Mama and Son and a student at Ball State who never hesitates to answer when someone asks, ‘What is the best soul food in Muncie?’
Chambers goes to Mama and Son every Sunday to eat lunch with his friends. Every time Chambers goes to the restaurant he starts the week off right by ordering the acclaimed Motley special.
“The environment keeps me returning to Mama and Son’s,” Chambers said. “I have a great relationship with the owners there, and they just always treat me right. I always feel like I'm family when I go in there.”
Students at Ball State can receive a 10 percent discount when they present a student ID.
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