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A mash-up of southern cooking styles

The Cozzy Corner shares its southern home cooking menu with Appleton

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September 8, 2022

APPLETON – Though born in Chicago and raised in Racine, Philip Bennett, owner of The Cozzy Corner on Walnut Street in Appleton, said most of his family is from Yazoo, Mississippi.

Bennett said he credits much of his skills in the kitchen to his mom and grandma – avid cooks themselves.

“My grandma was a great cook, so that’s how I learned a lot of my cooking,” he said. “My mom was also a good cook. They did a lot of catering. We had a restaurant when we were younger. We would always cook with them. That’s where I got a lot of my cooking skills from.”

Changing hands
Bennett said he moved to Appleton in 2010 and soon stumbled across The Cozzy Corner (111 N. Walnut St.), which was owned by Natasha and Mike Banks at the time.

He said he appreciated the variety of southern flavors offered on the establishment’s menu, which he knew well from his childhood.

In 2019, when the Banks were looking to sell, Bennett – no stranger to the world of entrepreneurship already an owner/operator of multiple other businesses – said he, and his wife Heidi, jumped on the opportunity.

“We do some of everything,” he said. “We have a clothing store and a barbershop, right in the Fox River Mall. Our barbershop is called Legends Cuts and Styles. Our clothing store is called Envy Fits and Fashion. We also are landlords. We have a couple of duplexes we rent out.”

Bennett said taking the reins of The Cozzy Corner was an ideal acquisition for him due to his experience cooking southern food.

He said it also afforded him the opportunity to mash-up two similar, yet different, cooking styles, which are now featured on the restaurant’s menu.

“A lot of people don’t understand that southern cooking is different depending on the southern region you’re in,” Bennett said. “If you’re in the Florida south, their soul food is different. If you’re in the Texas south, or Mississippi south, or Louisiana south – all of the southern food is different depending on what region of the south you come from.”

He said the Banks’ flavor palette leaned toward the Florida style, where soul food consisted of gator, frog legs, gumbo and jambalaya.

“Then Mississippi south would be more pig parts, collard greens, cabbage, yams and dressing,” Bennett said. “We merged the two to come up with a more diverse menu – it works for us.”

The food 
Though the menu offers a wide variety of southern food, Bennett said one item in particular is always the most popular.

“Our chicken sells like crazy,” he said. “We do a special marinade with our chicken. We let it marinade before we fry it. Every day, we have a certain rotation we do so our chicken is marinated properly. When you taste it, you’re not just tasting the seasoning on the breading, it’s actually going to be in the meat.”

Bennett said The Cozzy Corner’s chicken recipes have won awards.

“We won Golden Fork awards,” he said. “We just won for best southern-style food in the Fox Valley.”

Bennett said for patrons not familiar with soul food, he recommends a “beginner’s step.”


The menu at The Cozzy Corner in Appleton includes several home-cooked soul food options. Submitted Photo

?“I would say stuff like okra or gumbo – we make a good gumbo,” he said. “We use real roux for the gumbo. It’s like a gravy, versus it looking more like a soup. We don’t do it the soupy way.”

Bennett said The Cozzy Corner’s menu is geared toward all sorts of taste buds.

“That’s the great thing about The Cozzy Corner – we get everybody,” he said. “Everybody likes good food. We have sandwiches, we do ribs, we smoke our own meats, our own sausages, chicken. We do a range of things.”

Bennett said the restaurant has had a few visiting NFL teams stop in while in the area to play the Green Bay Packers.

“Sometimes, they stay at the Hilton Paper Valley Hotel,” he said. “Anytime they come, they shut us down. We had the Seahawks, the Dolphins, all of them. Any team that plays the Packers that stays at that hotel, they come. We get Packer players all the time.”

To capitalize on The Cozzy Corner’s popularity and further its options, Bennett said the restaurant opened a second location – Cozzy Express – at the Fox River Mall earlier this summer.

“When (people) hear there’s a real soul food joint (in the area) and the food is actually good, that’s what keeps us in business,” he said.

He said another location in Racine is also in the works.

Bennett said life as a business owner is a good fit for him – waking up each day being able to do what he loves.

“Being able to do what I want to do, not being told what to do, that drives me,” he said. “Where I come from, I didn’t have this when I was younger. Once you establish it, you want to keep everything going. I have to work in order to keep it going. I tell people that everything I do, I like, so it isn’t really work.”

The name
For those wondering about the extra “z” in the name – Bennett said Natasha Banks liked the name so much that when she found out the name with one “z” was already taken, the extra “z” was added.

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