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Bennie Smith - Honoring Daddy
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Daddy - Bennie Smith, Sr.

A love of food and the passion for culinary arts is something that Bennie Smith, Sr. passed down to his son Bennie.  The younger Smith, owner and chef at Daddy’s Soul Food and Grille, a popular restaurant located in Milwaukee’s Sohi district, fondly remembers his father as a gourmet chef.  In fact, he opened his restaurant at 27th and Wells in November of 2014 as a way to commemorate his father, who passed away on Easter day in 2013.  “My father was the reason I got into the field of cooking,” said Bennie.  “At one time, we talked about opening a restaurant together.  But as they say, ‘two cooks in the same kitchen isn’t going to work,’” he chuckled.

It was Smith’s oldest daughter who actually came up with the name Daddy’s to christen the new eatery.  It was a name that would honor both daddy’s – her grandfather and her own father.  Bennie insisted that the restaurant have broad appeal and serve a wide variety of cuisine.  Six days a week he serves up tasty plates of soul food, chicken and fish.  And in the mix he introduces weekday specials including barbeque, meatloaf, ribs, pork chops and a fish fry.  His grill turns out burgers for the meat-eaters, but there is also a section on the menu that caters to vegetarians.

Choice is important and Bennie is eager to please.  He could have located his restaurant in a different neighborhood, but he says he made a conscious decision to try and change the mentality of a neighborhood that is often stigmatized by crime and violence.  He said, “I wanted to let people come to a place where when you walk in it changes your whole mindset.  Because your place in life doesn’t dictate who you are.  I wanted a comfortable setting offering a friendly atmosphere and excellent food.” Ask any of his patrons and you will discover that Bennie has successfully delivered all of this and more.

And since breaking stigma and changing mindset is so important to Bennie, Daddy’s Soul Food & Grille has now become the location of a monthly Memory Café.  “I wanted to come aboard to help loved ones,” said Bennie.  Bennie gets involved personally in each memory café.  He introduces himself and does an icebreaker.  “It’s important to get the information out into the community and let everyone know what is available,” said Bennie.  “People don’t know where to turn, and instead of finding help, they isolate themselves and their loved ones at home.” 

The word about the Memory Café at Daddy’s is spreading, through organized publicity and word of mouth.  Bennie is especially pleased that some of his regular diners have inquired about the Memory Café and have brought loved ones back to the monthly gatherings. Restaurant employees have also been trained to be dementia-friendly.  Daddy’s is a safe place for those with memory loss to feel at home, order a meal, and enjoy a stress free dining experience.  Bennie believes his Daddy would highly approve, as the elder Smith also experienced challenges with his memory.

The Memory Café at Daddy’s meets on the second Tuesday of every month from 2:30 to 4:00 pm. The project is a partnership between the Alzheimer’s Association, Daddy’s Soul Food & Grille, Milwaukee County Department on Aging, MCFI, SPARK!, and the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute.

Bennie Smith and his wife, Angela, are co-owners of Daddy's


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