Now that Daddy’s Soul Food & Grille on North 27th Street has more than doubled its space, the five-year-old restaurant has plenty of room for social distancing during the pandemic and to serve diners more quickly.
“Our lines used to be so long,” said Angela Smith, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Bennie Smith. “We can keep people moving a lot quicker.”
The plan to expand the restaurant, 754 N. 27th St. in the newly remodeled SoHi building, was in the making well before the pandemic, though.
Angela Smith said planning began about 1½ years ago, with demolition starting in December and, importantly, funding finalized in January.
“That truly was a blessing,” she said, to have the funding in order before the coronavirus hit the state a scant two months later.
The first phase of the expansion took place behind the scenes, enlarging the kitchen by more than 500 square feet.
That allowed Daddy’s to increase its storage with a walk-in cooler and other equipment. And that means the restaurant will be able to handle more private events once it returns to the catering that COVID-19 brought to a halt.
The second phase enlarged the dining room, expanding it to the north. It went from 1,126 square feet and 60 seats to 3,088 square feet and 140 seats.
It now takes up the entire first floor of the 1915 building, which SoHi owner John Hennessy recently renovated inside and out. Offices now occupy the building’s other two floors.
During the lockdown ordered in March, Daddy’s turned to curbside pickup and added delivery through EatStreet. Like other restaurants, it’s kept those services even after it reopened its dining room.
“We didn’t think we would be able to handle call-in and delivery,” Smith said, but the restaurant has kept pace. “It was very educating to find out we could stretch ourselves and do more.”
It’s also been gratifying for the Smiths to see the reactions to the addition from their regulars, the customers who’ve spent their money at Daddy’s over the years.
“A customer walked in and said, “This is ours,” Angela Smith recalled, a sentiment that nearly left her in tears.
Daddy’s Soul Food & Grille plans to add breakfast soon. For now, the counter-service restaurant continues to serve its soul food buffet, which is packaged by employees, and items such as fish tacos and black bean burgers ordered from the grill.
Daddy’s is open 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.
Sometime in October, the Smiths plan to open a smaller version of the restaurant, called Daddy’s on Bluemound, 6108 W. Blue Mound Road in Wauwatosa. It’s at the site of a former George Webb restaurant; that restaurant would serve breakfast, as well.
Contact dining critic Carol Deptolla at [email protected] or (414) 224-2841, or through the Journal Sentinel Food & Home page on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter at @mkediner or Instagram at @mke_diner.