Art & Life

Vivian’s Soul Food offers good food and inspiration

Jerome Smallwood, left, and Briana Smallwood, right, own Vivian’s Soul Food, a lively restaurant in southwest Cedar Rapids. PHOTO BY NICK BARTON

Vivian’s Soul Food, located at 2925 Williams Pkwy SW, in Cedar Rapids, opened in 2017 and was voted the Best Soul Food in the CRANDIC (Cedar Rapids and Iowa City) two years in a row. According to the restaurant’s website, they are known for fried chicken, collard greens and baked mac. 

In 2021, owners Jerome and Briana Smallwood opened a second location called Vivian’s Express Grill at 5300 Fountains Dr NE #104, in Cedar Rapids. The couple had this to share about their business. 

Q: How did you come about owning the restaurant? 

Jerome: Cooking was just a family thing, I’ve just always had a passion for it. I also wanted to support the black community here in Cedar Rapids and represent the culture. 

Q: How often do you take time off? 

Jerome: Not very often. Since we’ve opened the restaurant, I’ve never taken two days off in a row besides holidays.  

Q: What’s something unique about your restaurant that you provide or offer? 

Jerome: We provide a sense of family and hope for those who may not feel as welcome as others in Cedar Rapids. When people see a black-owned business here, they feel inspired. 

Q: How else do you get involved with the community, outside of the restaurant? 

Briana: We mentor and volunteer a lot. We’ve taken staff to help with meals on wheels a few times. We also partner with the Tippie College of Business as a part of their Black in Business series and the LBA foundation to share our story and inspire future leaders and business owners. 

Q: Who’s the DJ at the restaurant? 

Briana: Jerome used to hand pick songs for a playlist, but before too soon, it got really repetitive and our employees were practically begging us to stop playing Mary J. Blige. So, nowadays we just play R&B or Hip-Hop instrumentals. 

Q: Any big plans coming up? 

Briana: The restaurant’s five-year anniversary is coming up in June, so we plan on celebrating that. 

Q: Besides your own restaurant, where is your favorite place to eat in town? 

Don Miguel Tienda Mexicana and Sushi House. 

Image courtesy of Nick Barton | Kirkwood Communiqué

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