Owl’s Nest’s head chef Keith Taylor is bringing in more Southern comfort food, including brisket and macaroni and cheese, to the menu at the restaurant.
The Owl’s Nest signage remains out front with the addition of a glowing sign saying SoulCucina. Taylor and his partners stress that the Owl’s Nest is an important institution to Temple’s campus and they didn’t want to tamper with that.
“We are SoulCucina at the Owl’s Nest. We want to add to the Temple tradition–take it to the next level,” Taylor said.
Walking into the Owl’s Nest, it is easy to forget that it is now under new management since the general aesthetics of the place are exactly the same. The Temple “T” is still painted on the wall, the general seating setup hasn’t been touched and the projector playing popular television shows is still up and running. The only notable difference is the distinct smell of hickory radiating from the smoker.
The entrance is rich with the vibrant smells of rich spices, mouthwatering pulled pork, brisket and ribs. Not to mention, the plethora of options ranging from traditional Southern sides, like four-cheese baked macaroni and cheese, to vegetarian options like eggplant parmesan.
Keeping the tradition of Owl’s Nest meant capitalizing on what was already present.
“We took a traditional staple, pizza, and brought it to another level,” Taylor said. “We’ve added to the tradition of Italian food that has become more like an American staple and just improved upon it.”
After a late night of partying and hanging out with friends students are generally limited on food options, Taylor said.
“I’ve seen this place go through three different owners,” said Kris Seiberlich, an employee and alumnus. “This is Temple’s own lounge. Kids come here, meet up, go out then come back later and get something to eat.”
Seiberlich has worked at the Owl’s Nest on and off and is waiting for it to become the hotspot on campus once again. Visiting a friend who worked there, he remembers looking through the menu and thinking how great it was that Taylor implemented barbecue favorites as well as kept the tradition of Owl’s Nest pizza. He then made the decision to return to the Owl’s Nest.
“I’m excited to see this place still going and what it’s going to bring to this campus,” he said.
The excitement stems from possibilities of what the Owl’s Nest can turn into under Taylor’s team.
Temple’s diverse, academic community motivated Taylor and his associates to bring SoulCucina to Temple instead of a desirable Center City location.
“Temple to us is better than being in Center City because here is where the diversity is,” he said.
Combining tradition to fit the “soul of every Temple student,” Taylor also wants SoulCucina to be embraced by the surrounding community.
A Philadelphia local told Taylor in passing that this place used to be packed and he needs to get it back to where it used to be. This is a top priority for Taylor.
Taylor graduated from the Cornell Culinary Institute and has since then worked at many prominent restaurants. He has been a driving force working at various restaurants to make quality food and keep it affordable.
Keeping food inexpensive at the Owl’s Nest is attributed to what he calls keeping “a small green footprint.”
“Everything is smoked on site and we’re using the cheapest source there is–wood,” Taylor said. “Everything is also all paper here, paper plates, paper cups so we do a good job of getting cheaper materials to cater to a college student’s pockets. We know how fast Diamond Dollars go.”
SoulCucina at the Owl’s Nest is still open late for Temple’s lively community. Open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, night Owl’s–the studious and the party goers–have new food options on Main Campus.
“Two of the biggest comfort foods, pizza and barbecue, fits because we wanted to bring some type of soul food to every kid on campus,” Taylor said.
Within the next five years, Chef Taylor’s immediate goals are to establish SoulCucina at the Owl’s nest as the number one place on campus to get comfort food. He also hopes to expand beyond the Temple community as well as provide jobs to students.
“I want kids to tell their parents, ‘Hey, I have this place you have to go to–the food is amazing,’” Taylor said.
He views his business as colorless and wants this to feel like the soul food away from home for every student on campus.
“This is the Owl’s Nest, I want this place to show that this is for the Owls’ jerseys, pictures of students sporting Temple gear, this is the place to be for Temple students and I want to make that clear,” Taylor said. “That’s why we didn’t change the name, the Owl’s Nest is important to the Temple community and we acknowledge that.”
Tomorrow, Sept. 28 between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., SoulCucina at the Owl’s Nest will be hosting “Free BBQ Wednesday” where they will be giving away free samples of award-winning ribs and traditional, North Carolina pulled-pork mini sandwiches.
Alexandra Olivier can be reached at email@example.com.