PHILADELPHIA – Reading Terminal Market today announced a new soul food merchant set to open this month. Ma Lessie’s Chicken and Waffles will be owned and operated by Perry Ison, former manager of KeVen Parker’s Soul Food Café, and his cousin Stacy McCarthy. The restaurant will serve flavorful comfort food including fried and baked chicken wings, baked mac and cheese, collard greens and smoked turkey, and peach cobbler.
“Perry brings the desirable combination of industry experience, arsenal of authentic recipes, and understanding of Reading Terminal Market to this role,” said Annie Allman, CEO and General Manager of Reading Terminal Market. “We anticipate customers will be excited to hear someone who knew and learned from KeVen Parker will be continuing the tradition of excellent soul food at the Market. We look forward to having visitors enjoy Perry’s take on soul food.”
Ison left his management role at KeVen Parker’s Soul Food Café in 2019 to open Ma Lessie’s Chicken and Waffles as a food truck, which is also set to open for business in the coming weeks. Following Parker’s death, Ison and McCarthy submitted a proposal to Reading Terminal Market for a brick-and-mortar Ma Lessie’s location.
“It’s an honor to open this business after working with KeVen for so many years. He was a dear friend and colleague and I hope to make him proud, starting by bringing back the chef and much of the staff from KeVen Parker’s Soul Food Café,” said Ison. “Loyal customers will find the familiar flavors they’ve loved for years and new visitors will enjoy classic comfort food with a twist. We want to provide our guests with the comfort and nostalgia of their grandmother’s kitchen with the culinary techniques of a high-end restaurant. Customers will get a complete dining experience with us.”
Ma Lessie’s is named after Ison and McCarthy’s grandmother, Ma Lessie Collins, and the menu will feature soul food dishes inspired by recipes she passed down through the family. Additional menu highlights include fruit-infused waffles, baked southern turkey wings, rice and gravy, and a waffle ice cream sandwich. The restaurant is targeted to open in mid-August, will be open seven days a week for dine-in and take out, and will have its own seating area designed by Ison.
About Reading Terminal Market
One of America’s largest and oldest public markets, the Reading Terminal Market serves as a public trust providing a venue for independent local businesses to showcase the Philadelphia region’s culinary bounty and cultural diversity. Housed since 1892 in a National Historic Landmark building, the Market offers an incredible selection of farm fresh produce, meats and poultry, plus the finest seafood, cheeses, baked goods, confections, flowers, jewelry and crafts. The Market is managed by a not-for-profit management company as a tenant of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority, which has owned the historic Reading Terminal since 1990. In 2014, the American Planning Association named Reading Terminal Market as one of the 10 Great Public Spaces in America and in 2021 the Market was voted Best Public Market by USA Today’s 10Best.