Wendell Smith Restaurant
Born in 1933, Jakie Cook was the son-in-law of Wendell Smith, Sylvan Park entrepreneur and founder of the eponymous Wendell Smith Restaurant and adjacent businesses. Jakie came on as a clerk in the liquor store in 1958, a few years after marrying Wendell’s daughter, Beverly. Soon after that he took over management of the restaurant and eventually expanded the empire-on-the-corner to include not only the original restaurant, liquor store, and market, but a drugstore and barbecue stand, as well.
When Wendell started the restaurant, Sylvan Park was still a pastoral, rural community outside of Nashville. Now the restaurant sits about a half block from an interstate in a bustling commercial/industrial corridor. As the not-so-long-ago blue-collar neighborhood begins to gentrify, there is a popular neo-retro ice cream and burger place just across the street, Bobbie’s Dairy Dip, with a tiny classic French eatery, Miel, just behind it. Some of Nashville’s coolest eateries are in Sylvan Park, but even with such competition, musicians, ladies-who-lunch, businessmen, politicians, and local workers still flock to Wendell Smith’s, particularly on Wednesday or Saturday when the special is crisp, hot fried chicken.
These days, Jakie’s son, Benji, is the owner/manager of the restaurant while Jakie holds court, coffee cup in hand, at the liquor store.