Texas native Joshua Williams was visiting his aunt in Columbia, Missouri, in 2008 when Hurricane Ike swept through the Gulf Coast and destroyed his hometown of Galveston Island. He chose to stay in Columbia, worked at UPS and started a family. He liked living in Columbia, but he could not find the food that he ate along the Gulf.
“I grew up eating oxtails and shrimp,” Williams says. “[In Columbia,] there was no soul food, no good mom-and-pop restaurant. It was all like Applebee’s and Ruby Tuesday’s type of food.”
Williams changed that in May 2018 when he opened Papadoo’s Soul Food. He learned how to cook the food on his menu by calling his mom and grandmother for the recipes of his childhood favorites. Loaded potatoes and catfish are the most popular menu items, he says. He also offers catering services, and he has catered graduation celebrations, birthday parties, work events, funerals and more.
“Just today, someone ordered for Cinco de Mayo,” he says. “We don’t have Mexican food, but I said OK. If you want chicken or fish for Cinco de Mayo, we got it.”
Just over a decade after the hurricane, he now uses his platform in Columbia to help benefit his family and community in Texas.
“People say to me all the time ‘I can’t wait for you to come back home. When are you going to open up a restaurant? You know we have property open on the beach too,’” Williams says. “There are so many resources here. I want to do stuff for home. I wanted to build something here where we can have a lot more resources because they don’t have a lot at home.”
Williams serves Columbia too, and in more ways than just with food. He has a public Facebook group where he and his customers write to each other. He posts daily specials and advertises special events at Papadoo's. He also has a partnership with a St. Louis-based Navy recruiter, so every month, people can learn about the Navy while enjoying a meal at Papadoo’s. Community and family are the foundations of his restaurant.
“I wouldn’t be here without [my supporters],” he says. “They kept pushing me. A lot of people don’t get that kind of support. Now we’re here, we have our own restaurant, and they still continue to come. That’s why I say that in Papadoo’s, we’re all a family. That’s how I want people to feel when they come here – we’re all a family.”
Papadoo’s Soul Food, 904 Business Loop 70 E., Columbia, Missouri, 409.996.8788, facebook.com/Papadoos-soul-food-Bbq-190156828444151