In Stephan Witherspoon's memories, his father, the late Rev. Sylvester Witherspoon, is gathering people together and feeding them — whether it was at his Grand Avenue restaurant, Doc Witherspoon's Chicken Shack, or at home.
"He would want to feed everybody," Witherspoon recalled. "Kids would walk by, and he's cooking on the porch, 'Come and get a plate! Come and get a piece of chicken.' He'd always feed the people."
Witherspoon said he and his brother, the musician Solomon Witherspoon, have been talking about opening their own restaurant for the past 25 years. But before they jump into a brick and mortar, planned to open in 2021 in Lincoln Park, the duo is delivering a pop-up to generate interest and support. Doc Witherspoon's Soul Food Kitchen will be serving from 5-7:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at Peace United Church of Christ. They are now taking pre-orders.
The menu for this first go-round: eight pieces of Doc's fried chicken, one quart of macaroni and cheese, cornbread dressing and eight pieces of sweet corn bread. The sweet potato pie is optional.
"I'd recommend it," said Stephan Witherspoon, who is the president of the Duluth NAACP.
The Witherspoon brothers have connected with Tom Hanson of Duluth Grill, OMC Smokehouse and more for the soul food project. Stephan Witherspoon said they were encouraged when Hanson tried their cornbread dressing and fried chicken.
"He tasted them both and said, 'You have to have your own thing,'" Witherspoon said.
A video posted to the restaurant-to-be's Facebook page, Stephan and Solomon fry chicken and joke around in the kitchen of one of Hanson's restaurants. Trays of cornbread are stacked nearby.
"Oct. 4," they both say in the video.
"Good food, why not?" Solomon adds. "Come support us."
The Rev. Sylvester Witherspoon, who was pastor at both Calvary Baptist Church and New Hope Baptist Church, had his West Duluth-based restaurant in the 1970s. He was a World War II veteran who settled in Duluth after the war. He died in 1999 after battling Alzheimer's disease, according to his son.
Doc, as he was called by some, was known to gather people together for meals and for keeping the kitchen festive.
"His thing was, all are welcome to the Lord's table," Stephan Witherspoon said.
If you go
What: Doc Witherspoon's Soul Food Kitchen
When: 5-7:30 p.m. Oct. 4
Where: Peace United Church, 1111 N. 11th Ave. E.
Pre-order info at docwitherspoons.com.