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Owner of DC's historic soul food restaurant dies at 73

The owner of the District's historic soul food restaurant, Henry's Carry-out and Delicatessen died Friday at the age of 73.
Henry's Soul Cafe

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The owner of the District's historic soul food restaurant, Henry's Soul Cafe died Friday at the age of 73.

The well known U Street restaurant opened in 1968 and has been known for Southern cooking.

Macaroni and cheese, greens, mashed potatoes and more, that's the hear-warming food you find at Henry's Soul café. It is food the owners say all prepared by hand, is all made with love. And the customers know it.

"I was born in North Carolina so the food that they fix [is] like my grandmother used to fix for me as a child and that's why I love it," said Roland Rouse waiting for his order at the Oxon Hill, MD location.

The customers also love the man who brought this food to them, Henry Smith. Sadly there's a family and community now mourning after Smith died on Friday of heart complications.

"I'm going to miss him you know. I would love to have him ride around with us and seeing what we've done but he saw a good deal of it," said Jermaine Smith, Henry Smith's son. Smith talked about the history of the café and shared some of the struggles his father pursued through like the 1960s riots and massive street construction, all things that could destroy a business.

"He's been here, you know, he put his whole life into the District of Columbia for the past 46 years with Henry Soul Cafe. He's fed everybody, all the Wizards, the Bullets, you know, everything, the Washington Redskins, Obama."

The President, according to Smith, also took a liking to his father' Sweet Pies, "Obama's favorite Sweet Potato Pie is from Henry's Soul Café," said Jermaine Smith.

That's what he tells us his father worked hard to perfect, now selling somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 pies a years, mostly during the Thanksgiving holiday.

"I came in here like right before Thanksgiving and it was a line out the door. I just wanted food and the line was out the door for the sweet potato pie," said Alexis Dixon.

When it comes to all the food, Brian Walt said, "It's the closest thing to home when you're away from home."

It's that home touch Smith says his father wanted to share with customers and worked hard to deliver throughout the years. So much so that when Jermain sees a Sweet Potato Pie, he said four words come to mind.

"Hard work pays off," Jermaine told WUSA9.

That's the legacy he hopes customers will remember every time they take a bite.