Eden Prairie restaurant serves Southern food, charm, and hospitality
Christene Kemp-Davis and Wardell Davis are no strangers to Southern cuisine. With over 20 years of culinary experience that extends into the catering industry, this husband and wife team decided to embark on a journey that led to the creation of their newest venture, Smokin Hottdish.
Inspired by the owners’ Midwestern and Southern roots, Smokin Hottdish opened its doors in May 2019 after years of pop up events across the South Metro including Burnsville, Apple Valley, and Eden Prairie. It has since called the Eden Prairie City Center its home where the restaurant has attracted a steady following thanks to social media and their generous portion sizes.
“One of our regular customers actually made us aware of this space. They attended our catered events for years and let us know about this opportunity. It’s really been a blessing to us,” said Christine. The Eden Prairie Police Department and city workers are among the many patrons that frequent the restaurant on a daily basis, but it is the general public that continues to keep the Davis family on their toes.
“Smokin Hottdish is a brand that prides itself on quality. We are also true to who we are, and so far, people have accepted that,” said Wardell. He is known to customers as the “The Meat Man” due to his love and appreciation for preparing smoked meats. “It also helps that some of our clients have connections to the South, but we’ve done a good job of introducing people to other items on our menu as well.”
Among the restaurant’s best-sellers are its fried fish, smoked meats, potato salad, jambalaya, and a breakfast bowl that consists of eggs, chopped peppers, fried potatoes, and Andouille sausage. In addition to its sizeable portion sizes, patrons of the restaurant can also expect a blend of Southern hospitality that the owners credit to their interactions with people.
“We are very interactive with our customers because we truly believe in good customer service,” Christine explained. “On any given morning you can catch ‘Daddy Davis’ singing to the blues station while he’s making breakfast. He’s usually in rare form and attracts a crowd. This is one part of the customer experience.”
Wardell added: “Besides the food, I like to see people smile. We live in a world where people are afraid to smile and afraid to talk to each other. If I can see somebody smile, then I know I’ve done my job.”
Even with Smokin Hottdish’s growth in popularity, the owners are quick to lend wisdom and advice to aspiring entrepreneurs especially those that desire to venture into the food industry. “This is not a fly-by-night type of business. This type of business requires a lot of hard work,” Christine emphasized.
“It is also important to develop good customer service skills and a lot of tough skin. You’re not going to please everyone, so you may run into someone that doesn’t like your food. But for the one person that doesn’t like it, you may find five people that do. All of this requires listening. And listening is a learned skill,” she said.
“You have to be able to communicate and listen to understand instead of listening to reply,” Wardell replied. “You should also take the knowledge and experience from other people and try to implement it into your own. This is what it means to be true to yourself because I cannot worry about what places like Popeye’s and other smoke shacks are doing. I can only worry about the work we’re doing at Smokin Hottdish. So, staying true to who you are is advice I would pass along as well.”
While both owners suggest that the future for Smokin Hottdish is unlimited, they realize the importance of evolving as a brand in today’s restaurant landscape. “The food industry changes daily so the thing to do is to hone and perfect your craft. We recognize that Smokin Hottdish is a growing brand, but our foundation of good food and good service will always remain the same.”
Smokin Hottdish is located in the Eden Prairie City Center on the Garden Room Lower Level located at 8080 Mitchell Rd in Eden Prairie. They are open Monday-Friday 8 to 9:30 am for breakfast and 11 am to 1:30 pm. for lunch. For more information, call 952-228-4419.