Soul food restaurateur celebrates 30 years

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Restaurant owners rarely get time off. Owning and running a food-service business requires long hours and hard work, as anyone who has done it will tell you.

Detroiter Steve Radden has two locations of his Steve’s Soul Food. Yet the former Detroit police officer still manages to take weeks off at a time to help those in need. Right now he’s in Florida assisting FEMA with relief efforts after Hurricane Matthew.

“They told me to get some tree shredders and some dump trucks,” said Radden, who also went to help the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and brought healthy food to Flint after the water crisis.

He says he’ll be gone for a few weeks, and then he’ll be back to overseeing his cafeteria-style restaurants that serve what he calls “authentic-style soul food.” Employees dish out catfish, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, pig feet and other soul food staples from metal pans into to-go containers. The restaurants are popular for carry-out, although seating is spacious and plentiful at both locations.

The original Steve’s Soul Food restaurant at 8443 Grand River is celebrating 30 years of business this year.

Radden started serving soul food at the Grand River spot, with the Detroit skyline in view just down the road, in 1986. He bought the building, a former furniture store, from a friend. At the time, Radden’s father owned the store across the street. Radden said his original intention was to sell auto parts, then penny candy, then a deli. He connected with customers once he started selling soul food made by his friends’ mothers and other women he knew.

“I added the soul food and the soul food went wild,” says Radden. “First day 10 dinners, next day 20 dinners, next day 40 dinners.”

“I just pulled a lot of people off welfare and put them to work,” he said of the people who cooked for him when he first opened. “These were all people that were up in age, 50s, 60s, 70s ... so I kept it as consistent as I possibly could, but these old ladies did it out of love, straight love, and that’s what soul food is.”

When asked how he thinks his food fits in with the growing restaurant scene in Detroit, Radden says he tries to offer more variety at his restaurant closer to downtown, 1440 Franklin, like more salads and seafood options. He said in the future he may look into opening another restaurant in Atlanta or Texas. (Radden, 59, has worked as a police officer in Atlanta and Highland Park, in addition to Detroit.)

He’s not looking to slow down any time soon, but Radden, who had to close his Grand River restaurant for a few years after a fire, does say he wants to exit the restaurant business while it’s going well.

“I just want to be known for doing a good job all the way ’til the end,” he said. “Like Michael Jordan, be at the top of your game when you go out, if you go out.”

Deliciously brief

■Stephanie Piestrak and her Chefin’ Awesome pop-up will squeeze into Brooklyn Street Local Monday to serve gourmet pierogi with a variety of fillings including duck and Michigan cherry, sweet cheese, potato cheddar and pumpkin pie, plus other Polish comfort foods. Dine in for a meal, get carry-out or place an order of pierogi to-go by the dozen. Pierogi orders by the dozen have to be placed by Friday. Visit for details.

■Michigan breweries had a good showing at the Great American Beer Festival and competition that took place earlier this month in Denver, Colorado. Gold medals went to River’s Edge Brewing Co. of Milford for its Dirty Frank Stout and to Wolverine State Brewing in Ann Arbor for the Raucher Smoked Lager. Bell’s Brewery got silver for its Expedition Stout and Detroit Beer Co.’s Broadway Light and Roak Brewing Co.’s Live Wire got bronze medals. Overall, beers from Michigan took home 10 medals.

■Mezzevino Mediterranean Kitchen and Bar in Ann Arbor closed permanently this week. President and CEO of Mainstreet Ventures Inc. Michael Gibbons attributed the closing to poor financial performance, in spite of positive comments from guests.

(313) 222-2402

Twitter: @melodybaetens