Self-care is important, and Joshua Williams Sr. knows from personal experience that a big plate of fried chicken can cure what ails you. At Papadoo’s Soul Food in Columbia, Missouri, he offers a taste of Southern staples and home-style cooking with a menu of fried chicken, catfish and shrimp alongside daily specials – think oxtails and loaded baked potatoes.
A Texas native, Williams ended up settling in Columbia after Hurricane Ike hit his hometown of Galveston Island in 2008. Since opening Papadoo’s – named for his grandfather’s nickname, Henry “Papadoo” Williams – in May 2018, Williams has become well known for his stick-to-your-ribs cooking and gregarious personality.
Tell us about your background in the kitchen. My mom, grandma and aunt taught me how to cook. When I first moved here from Texas, I didn’t have anyone to cook for me. Back home, I could go to anybody’s house and eat – there was always food! Here, I don’t have any family. I used to call home every day and ask my mom how to make my favorite dishes, and she taught me the recipes.
What inspires your menu at Papadoo’s? The menu comes from the southern part of me. Growing up in Texas and Louisiana, I learned you can’t ever go wrong with catfish and shrimp! And everybody loves fried chicken. That was one of the first things I learned how to make – I love chicken wings. Oxtail was the first thing I learned how to cook that I was proud of, and it’s one of my favorite foods to eat, so it will always be on the menu.
How has Columbia responded to Papadoo’s? Oh, they love it! I keep it fresh, and everything is cooked to order, especially the fried food. They want me to add more stuff, but I tell them the specials make up for what’s not on the everyday menu. Some specials have specific days, and other days I give a variety. I let them choose. If they can find a picture, I can bring it to life for them. One that’s selling well right now is Buffalo chicken fries; I’m thinking about adding it to the menu full-time.
What’s the most rewarding part of running the restaurant? I think it’s building a relationship with the customers. People walk in and say, “You’re the guy from the TV commercial. You really work here?” I’ll be at the mall, and people will say, “Hey, Papadoo!” That’s the best part for me. I feel like I’m pushing something positive into the community and helping them see that if I can do it, they can do it, too.
Papadoo’s Soul Food, 904 Business Loop 70 E, Columbia, Missouri, 409.9968788, papadoos-soul-food.business.site