By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Aug 05, 2020 at 6:50 PM

A local pitmaster with a healthy following will soon have a brick and mortar home to call his own.

Donald Lee of Big Daddy’s BBQ and Soul Food signed a lease on the property at 2730 N. Humboldt Blvd., which formerly housed Milwaukee Beer Bistro.

Lee says he plans to set up his two smokers just outside the restaurant, adjacent to the new outdoor patio and offer primarily outdoor seating until the weather cools down. From there, he says, he’ll create a plan for socially distant indoor dining.

Guests can expect a core menu of his hickory smoked dry-rubbed barbeque, including rib tips, ribs, pulled pork and brisket along with selections like applewood smoked jerk chicken, fried chicken sandwiches, catfish dinners and burgers. Sides will include classics like macaroni and cheese, pinto beans, candied yams, red beans and rice and fried green tomatoes.

He says he’ll also plan to serve regular specials, along with with weekend brunch and special menus for Soul Food Sundays with dishes like smothered pork chops and smothered chicken.

About Big Daddy's

Lee, who has been perfecting the art of barbeque since he was 18 years old, says he’s excited to open another brick and mortar restaurant after serving his food via pop-ups throughout the city for the past couple of years.

"I’m the baby of the family," says Lee, "So I was the last one at home. And I learned a lot about cooking from my mom. Then my brothers taught me how to barbeque…"

Lee says that, over the years, he grew to love it, eventually launching his own business. Fifteen years ago, he operated Big Daddy’s on Brown Deer Road. But as his business grew and his landlord subsequently raised his rent, he moved on. For about eight months, he served his smoked meats and sides in partnership with Gerald’s Smoke House in Racine. But, he says, he always wanted to be back out on his own. So, he launched his current pop-up and catering model, introducing his food to hungry customers across the city.

Now, he says, he’s excited to bring his food to Riverwest.

"This has always been a family owned business," he says. "That’s my core. It’s the sort of business where I hope that someday maybe my son will be able to take it over… or maybe even my grandsons or granddaughter."

Lee says he hopes to open his doors within the next week or two. In fact, if all goes well, customers could be able to indulge in his notable Soul Food Sunday menu as soon as Aug. 16, with a grand opening to follow.

Once open, Lee says Big Daddy's will be open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Brunch will be offered on Saturdays and Sundays beginning at 10 a.m. and a soul food menu will be available for Sunday dinner.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.