Sophie Bolich

Southern-Style Restaurant For Paper Table

Lifelong Milwaukeean Devonte Berry to open Jupiter Uncle, with homey cuisine inspired by his upbringing.

By - Apr 3rd, 2023 02:34 pm
Site of Paper Table, 733-737 N. Milwaukee St. Photo taken Oct. 31, 2022 by Sophie Bolich

Site of Paper Table, 733-737 N. Milwaukee St. Photo taken Oct. 31, 2022 by Sophie Bolich

What many people call soul food, Devonte Berry defines simply as American. He hopes his new restaurant will help diners see his perspective.

Berry’s Southern-inspired concept, Jupiter Uncle, is slated to open at the end of the month at Paper Table, 733-737 N. Milwaukee St.

“People always call it soul food, the style of food that I cook,” he said. “But that type of food is just as American as the burger or the hotdog — because it started here in America. It’s everyone’s. My goal at Jupiter Uncle is to change the mindset that we have, as if the food I cook is separate from America. It’s not. It’s all-encompassing of the American history that we have, whether it be good or bad.”

The upcoming restaurant will be Berry’s first venture into the industry, though he comes armed with decades of home-cooking experience, as well as counsel from his three grandmothers.

When he was young, Berry and his grandmother, Thelma, adopted a weekly tradition of attending church, then returning home to prepare Sunday dinner. At first, Berry was just an observer. But one day, his grandmother sat him down and demonstrated how to prepare cornbread.

“So from then on, whenever we came home from church, my job was to bake the cornbread from scratch,” he said. “And my other grandmothers (Clara and Catherine) gave me so much input. I could call each one of them and ask them how to cook anything. So that’s where the love and passion of my cooking comes from.”

Berry is also a devoted uncle, a fact made apparent by the name of his restaurant. Last year, while running errands with his then-3-year-old autistic nephew, Berry said the child pointed out a silver bouncy ball and said, “Jupiter, Uncle.”

When the pair returned home, new ball in tow, Berry’s nephew collected all of the balls from his closet and set to work constructing a model solar system. “It was just one of the most inspiring things,” he said. “So I went with Jupiter Uncle, because that’s really the first time he acknowledged me for something. He never really spoke much, so it just meant a lot.”

Beyond the restaurant’s title, diners will notice homages to Berry’s close friends and mentors throughout the menu with items such as the Big Bad Betty. Named for Berry’s late mentor Betty Jiles, the triple-decker turkey sandwich features bacon, fried green tomatoes, avocado and lime aioli.

The Sergeant Zell, featuring pulled pork, house barbeque sauce, onion rings and coleslaw, is named for Berry’s grandfather, a Purple Heart recipient and Vietnam War veteran.

“I know they would be over the moon if they were here,” Berry said of his mentors. “I feel their love and their energy, especially during this time, I feel their encouragement.”

In addition to a variety of sandwiches and traditional Southern dishes, Berry plans to serve an assortment of egg rolls and salads, as well as all-day breakfast including buttermilk pancakes, homemade biscuits, sausage gravy and potatoes.

A first-generation business owner, Berry said he was especially inspired by Milwaukee entrepreneurs like Twisted Plants and Lily Bell’s IS Fine Dining food truck, as well as the overall diversity of the city.

Throughout his previous job in banking, Berry always went the extra mile to connect with clients — even learning the basics of different languages to better assist those from the Hmong community and beyond. As a restaurant owner, Berry said he is excited to take those connections even deeper.

“There are so many positive things to having a Hmong community, a Hispanic community, an Indian community,” he said. “All of these communities make up Milwaukee in a way that isn’t talked about, that isn’t boasted about. But this is my home, and I’m not going anywhere. Because I feel like I have so much to offer.”

Berry is preparing to open Jupiter Uncle at the end of April, following final inspections and approval of a food dealers license for the business.

Once open, he said the restaurant will operate Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30 a.m. until midnight.

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