Restaurant fuses Caribbean, Southern favorites
At the intersection of Southern flavor and Caribbean favorites, local residents can find restaurateur Nate Smith and his new business, Uncle Joe’s.
The Bridgeport resident opened the restaurant-lounge Thursday at 188 Pequonnock St. The eatery offers a Caribbean and soul-infused menu with custom cocktails and an atmosphere that transports customers to the islands.
With a mix youthful ideas and penchant for entrepreneurship, Smith, 29, said he wanted to break from the beaten path with his menu and space in the Hollow, which used to be Lee’s Emporium.
“I wanted to bring something different to the area,” he said. “When you walk in and see the space you’ll see it’s not anything normal.”
For the past two years, Smith used the space’s kitchen to prepare food for his catering business Fresh Delights Catering and Events which he relocated from New York to the Park City. He decided to transform the storefront into a full-service restaurant and lounge.
The youngest son of the late Joseph Smith, “Uncle Joe,” Nate Smith decided to honor his father by utilizing some of his best recipes in the family-run restaurant.
“My dad was a community man, and everybody in the community called him ‘Uncle Joe’ when I was growing up — everybody,” Smith said, adding that even he and his brothers began using the nickname for their father.
“He was an amazing chef as well as on entrepreneur, and I really wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Smith added.
Smith has filled his menu with recipes he’s learned from his parents and grandparents. He is also a trained mixologist.
Uncle Joe’s offers a duality of flavors on its menu, offering Caribbean favorites like oxtail and jerk chicken and Southern selections like chicken and waffles, candied yams, and mac and cheese.
“There’s not really many choices in Bridgeport when it comes to soul food, so I think an infusion would be something different,” Smith said.
The family-run restaurant also offers seafood boil and steamed fish items. The bar portion offers an array of drinks that Smith said he came up with, as well.
Though he looks to appeal to his fellow millennials, Smith doesn’t exclude anyone, creating an atmosphere that can be enjoyed by families, as well.
On Saturday, Smith held a family day event in the parking lot of the restaurant before shifting over to a night party for his older demographic. That’s a dynamic he said he plans to continue in coming months.
“I think we are in a revolving time where people want things that are different,” Smith said. “I don’t go for the old stuff. I want something new. I’m very adventurous. I always feel like I want to be different.”
Uncle Joe’s is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and stays open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant also runs a brunch schedule on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.