D'von Maples already had a lawn care service (Maples Lawn Details) and a child care center (Loving Childcare) in the city when the opportunity arose to open a restaurant along MLK Boulevard.
"I wasn't looking to get into the restaurant business, but the chance came up," he said.
Thanks to visiting his aunt, Marcia MacGraw, over the years as she traveled the world while in the military, he knew that street food would dominate his menu. He didn't have a name, however, so he started asking some of the folks who had lived in the area for a while what he should call it.
"They all said, 'Call it the Big 9,' cause that's what the area used to be called back in the day," he said in reference to the area being the center of black culture and entertainment when it was called 9th Street. It was renamed in 1981 in honor of the late Civil Rights leader.
Big 9 Street Food opened on May 4 and already people have grown to love the tacos, Philly Cheese sandwiches and "everything pork belly. They love the pork belly," Maples said.
He added that patrons also love the fact that as with most street foods, diners can dress the dishes up just about any way you want.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday.Location: 611 E. M.L. King Blvd.Phone: 423-541-8675Notable Menu Items: Sides such as Mac & Cheese, green beans and chili are $4, while the large Chopped Plate with hot dog or sausage covered in chili and topped with mustard and hot sauce is $10.50 and the 9th Street Salad with choice of chicken, shrimp or pork belly is $12.
"We will put whatever you want on there," he said.
Tacos can be made with shrimp, Beyond Meat, chicken, steak or pork belly, and slaw, cilantro "or whatever you want," for example.
Also in true street food fashion, it's designed as a grab-and-go place with just two tables inside and two more outside.
"But, I'm building a bar so you will be able to sit outside and watch the goings-on like at other places along the street.," he said.
Maples' cousin Matthew Davis, a 20-year veteran of several downtown restaurants, handles most of the work in the kitchen, but Maples said he has helped create some of the dishes, as well. His wife Jacquetta and son, D'von Jr. also help out at the restaurant.
He said so far the restaurant has attracted a mix of locals and tourists and Maples said he is looking forward to the city opening up with events like Nightfall and Riverfront Nights kicking off this weekend.
"I'm going to have to drive my motorcycle on Friday," he said. "I go to Nightfall every week, and this street is getting better and better."
The restaurant will celebrate its grand opening on Juneteenth, June 19,
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.