Harold Weston has created what might just be considered the ultimate honor to his father.
“My father was a chef on the railroad in the 1940s and 1950s–Southern Pacific–but he had a couple of heart attacks and had to retire. He was a great cook . . . and he and my mother ran a restaurant back in the 1960s for Rev. Farrell (the pastor) of Tabernacle of Faith Baptist Church.”
But the senior Weston never wielded the chef’s knife in own establishment. Consequently, when Harold opened his own Leimert Park eatery about a year ago, it was only fitting that he make it a tribute to his dad and name the business after James Weston, who was known as Papa West.
Located in Leimert Park Village and nestled snugly between Zambezi Bazaar to the north and The World State to the south, the building that is now Papa West has had a number of businesses within its walls in the last few years, all of which have been restaurants that tried and failed. Weston is well aware of the previous attempts, but is confident he has the key to longevity for his restaurant, which serves breakfast and lunch, closes midday then reopens again at 5 p.m. for dinner.
“The public has got to know I’m here. That’s why I’m doing publicity, advertising and marketing,” explained Compton-born and raised Weston, who took the cuisine for Papa West straight from his Southern-born parents.
The cuisine at the cozy two-story restaurant is Southern and the menu features such offerings as grits, catfish, salmon croquettes, biscuits and gravy, honey drop biscuits and soon cow brains and eggs.
“We don’t serve any pork; instead there is turkey bacon and turkey chops,” said Weston who has also replaced salt with a variety of herbs for seasoning.
And the signature dish is chicken and waffles.
Looking around the restaurant you are struck by the prints of singers and the strategically placed figurines of jazz musicians.
“I have a music motif, and everything (the decor) centers around music. That’s one part of our culture,” explained Weston, adding “Jazz is our contribution to the music world.”
In addition to the music visuals, Papa West feature live music–mostly blues, jazz and R & B on Fridays and Saturdays. There are vocal jam sessions on Thursdays, and open mike and poetry on Wednesdays.
Weston is no newcomer to the business. He has managed restaurants for others, but always wanted his own establishment. So when the opportunity came up, he plunked down his hard-earned savings and opened the doors.
And it has not been easy. Challenges include finding the right mix of employees and balancing the needs of life with those of being the sole proprietor of his business.
But the soft-spoken entrepreneur feels people’s appreciation of his food and fulfilling his twin dreams of owning a restaurant and paying homage to his father, make all the challenges well worth the effort in the long run.