Heart & Soul

Photo by Brent Fleury

Photo by Brent Fleury

My favorite southern belle and I visited Daddy D’s Suber Soul Food on 7th Avenue in Hendersonville on a recent Monday, a day when most restaurants take the night off. We found parking right in front and walked into a bright, cheery restaurant with buttery gold walls and tablecloths on each table. A chalkboard of daily specials enticed us with offerings of sausage with peppers and onions, sides of rice and gravy and homemade pecan pie. “I’m happy,” she said as we sat down.

With iced tea in hand, my Macon-born friend made her choices: fried chicken, collards and green beans. Ever watchful of my diet, I chose fried catfish, mac & cheese and potato salad. Both plates came filled to the brim, with a corn muffin teetering precariously on top. At $8.50 a meal, this has to be the best food value in town. In fact, all of the entrée prices ran $6.50 to $8.50. Heck, you can get a grilled cheese sandwich for $3.50.

Daddy D’s, we learned, is a family-wide labor of love. Doris Young, along with brothers, sisters and children, make it happen. The family worked on the space for four long years. They built benches, refinished tables, painted walls…all while working full time.

Just before the long-awaited opening day, Doris severely broke her ankle. Not one to let a little thing like a wheel chair stop her, she was at the stove when they opened the door to their dream. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way. It just took faith,” Doris says.

The inspiration and namesake behind the vision is O.D. Suber, the family patriarch. Although he passed away several years ago, Daddy D lives on in spirit and on the back of the menu. I asked our waitress, Daddy D’s niece, if he was a cook. “No, he was just the best grandfather in the whole world,” she said.

The fried chicken and catfish had a crispy, lightly seasoned coating and were fried just right. The macaroni and cheese was as good as I’ve ever had. Ever. Although I, a Minnesota girl, never quite understood the allure of collards, the slow-cooked greens with fatback and a hint of onion had my friend, who grew up with such things, swooning with pleasure. Potato salad was the real deal as well, with a little sweet pickle relish and creamy dressing. Hot sauce and cider vinegar are on each table for those who kick their greens up a notch.

Coming from a long line of Southern cooks, Doris remembers baking cookies and canning with all the women in her family since she was a little girl. She went on to work in the food service industry for years and began catering weddings for friends. Just recently, they served 300 people at the opening of the new building at Union Grove Baptist Church. Clearly, this is a woman who thinks big. And feeds big, too. When I told her that we were eating long after being full, she smiled and said, “I fed six children …it’s always been big pots, never small.”

While the menu carries all of the usual Southern favorites, such as pork chops, baked chicken and dressing, Daddy D runs specials such as oxtail, pigs feet and braised short ribs. On Sundays, the church crowd packs the place for all the fixings, including homemade pies and cobblers.

Doris says, “I want people to feel at home here and be reminded of how they ate as children.” Take a leap of faith; try a little soul, Daddy D style.

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