Fundraiser to Open New Black-Owned Duluth Soul Food Restaurant Draws Hungry Crowd

Solomon and Stephan Witherspoon are raising money to open Doc Witherspoon's Soul Food Kitchen in Lincoln Park in 2021.

DULUTH, Minn.- A pop-up fundraiser at Peace United Church in Duluth Sunday raised money to help bring a new, black-owned soul food restaurant to the city next year.

A line of cars snaked around the church, filled with anxious customers all hungry for some new soul food.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Solomon Witherspoon, “I have tears of joy inside of my heart right now.”

Solomon, a name in the Twin Ports music scene, and his brother Stephan, President of the Duluth NAACP, are raising money to open up Doc Witherspoon’s Soul Food Kitchen in Lincoln Park in 2021.

“Typically it’s about a couple hundred grand to start up a restaurant,” Solomon said. “So we need everybody’s help right now.”

The Witherspoon brothers are also being mentored in opening the new restaurant by Tom Hanson, owner of Duluth Grill, OMC Smokehouse and Corktown Deli and Brews in Lincoln Park.

“We gotta work baby!” Stephan said enthusiastically in between orders.

On Sunday they rushed in and out, bringing pre-ordered bags of food to cars, raising roughly $6-8,000.

“This is the grind right here, the aspect of everything that I missed, how I started out in front of my own home,” said Antonio O’Neill, owner of Jamrock Cultural Restaurant at Average Joe’s in Superior.

“We’re doing some fried chicken, we’re doing some dressings, some mac and cheese, some sweet potato pie right now,” Solomon said.

They sold out of about 850 pieces of their 40-year-old family recipe chicken.

That recipe isn’t new to the city. It was originally used by their dad Reverend Sylvester “Doc” Witherspoon’s restaurant, Doctor Spoon’s Chicken Shack, which used to be open in the old days of West Duluth.

“Y’know my father literally that’s what we did 24/7,” said Solomon. “We cooked for the whole community. So we’re here now 40 years later we’re just trying to pass it forward, period.”

And it seemed the whole community smelled that cooking Sunday.

O’Neill took his restaurant from a similar drive-up style out of his house, to Average Joe’s bar over the summer.

He came Sunday not only hoping for some food, but hoping it brings more of Black culture that comes with it to this side of the bridge. “Another black-owned restaurant is great, it’s great to see.”

“Our culture should be shared within the community,” he said.” It’s been a hidden secret within our homes for many years, many decades, so to get out and show within the community is really great.”

That heritage is the most important secret ingredient in the food, according to the Duluth-born-and-raised Witherspoons.

“I think it’s mandatory that you always stick to your roots, y’know what I mean? Your ethnicity,” said Solomon. “So for our food and our culture what we’re doing now, we’re showing a part of our soul with everybody else.”

Making food a valuable way to bring communities together in divisive times. “Now more than ever we think it’s just imperative and necessary right now to bring people together,” he said.

That was apparent at the church, as they chatted and laughed for over a minute at almost every car they brought food to.

“And people always come together over food. And we need people to come to our table, and everybody’s welcome at our table, period,” said the musician.

On Sunday fans of their food wished them luck, hoping they can bring some of that Witherspoon family soul to Duluth in 2021.

“You come to the Witherspoon house, you get a good meal and a good word and a good song,” Solomon said, harmonizing some notes. “All day long!”

The Witherspoon’s are also getting help from Tom Hanson, owner of popular Lincoln Park restaurants Duluth Grill, OMC Smokehouse, and Corktown Deli & Brews.


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