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Black-owned restaurants and other food businesses in Texas

Austin’s Baby Greens offers wraps, soups, and refreshing salads such as the Rainbow and Asian signature salads. | Photo by Nitya Jain Austin’s Baby Greens offers wraps, soups, and refreshing salads such as the Rainbow and Asian signature salads. | Photo by Nitya Jain

Family and cultural traditions flavor the menus at these Black-owned restaurants and culinary enterprises throughout Texas. Here’s just a handful of the many delicious discoveries worth putting on your road trip bucket list.

Black-owned businesses in Dallas

Val’s Cheesecakes pastry chef Val Jean-Bart. | Photo by Jennifer Boomer

Val’s Cheesecakes pastry chef Val Jean-Bart. | Photo by Jennifer Boomer

Val Jean-Bart elevated the sweets game in Dallas upon opening Val’s Cheesecakes in the Oak Lawn neighborhood in 2015. Inspired by a weekly baking ritual with his Haitian mom, he moonlighted as a baker while working his day job as a civil engineer. Then he made the leap to full-time pastry chef.

Cookies N Cream cheesecake from Val’s Cheesecakes. | Photo by Jennifer Boomer

Cookies N Cream cheesecake from Val’s Cheesecakes. | Photo by Jennifer Boomer

Today, his 16 flavors—the most popular are banana pudding and classic strawberry—are available as fillings in jars, by the slice, and as big, beautiful, whole cheesecakes at his original shop, which he calls The Shack, as well as at a second location, The Shop, in East Dallas.

Meanwhile, on the northeast edge of Dallas in Garland, Pangea Restaurant & Bar is helmed by chef-owner Kevin Ashade, who grew up in Nigeria and the United Kingdom before landing in Texas.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Chef Kev turns heads at his year-old restaurant with dishes like snow crab scampi, Argentinean steak, jerk-roasted lamb shank, and coq au vin (his version was a winner on the Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay in 2016). At brunch, the smoked brisket Benedict pleases the Texan palate.

Black-owned businesses in Fort Worth

Loft22 Cakes pastry chef Tareka Lofton. | Photo by Dave Shafer

Loft22 Cakes pastry chef Tareka Lofton. | Photo by Dave Shafer

Instead of panicking when the pandemic hit, pastry chef Tareka Lofton assumed a carpe diem attitude: When COVID-19 robbed her of the wedding cake clientele that usually keeps her Loft22 Cakes bakery busy, she decided to have a little fun with all of the panic buying and created irreverent bathroom tissue cakes.

The publicity brought a flood of new business to her Near Southside bakery and allowed her to rehire her staff that was laid off after the onset of the pandemic. When one of the national morning shows got wind of her TP cakes, her business exploded even further. Her artistry extends to delightful birthday cakes—Spider-Man flying off the side of a building, Baby Yoda with his sly smile, and many more—and exquisitely painted wedding cakes.

Smoke-A-Holics BBQ chef Derrick Walker. | Photo by Dave Shafer

Smoke-A-Holics BBQ chef Derrick Walker. | Photo by Dave Shafer

At the original Smoke-A-Holics BBQ, chef Derrick Walker and his wife, Kesha, work long hours to keep up with a clientele hungry for smoked prime beef brisket, as well as their loaded corn bread, which is piled with baked beans, chopped brisket, cheddar, green onions, and barbecue sauce. One bite into his prime beef brisket, with its crunchy, spiced edges and deep pecan smoke infusion, and you understand how Derrick’s star rose quickly in the Texas barbecue world. And one bite of the Coca-Cola cake and you’ll be glad you saved room for dessert. 

Almost from the moment he opened Smoke-A-Holics BBQ in 2019, just southeast of downtown Fort Worth, lines were streaming onto the parking lot and sidewalk. Six months later, the pandemic’s onset prompted a quick shift to strictly takeout service. Nevertheless, the little smokehouse became so popular (stories in national magazines boosted Smoke-A-Holics’ exposure) that it expanded to a second location across town in spring 2021.

Black-owned businesses in San Antonio

Weathered Souls Brewing Company co-owner Marcus Baskerville. | Photo courtesy Weathered Souls Brewing Company

Weathered Souls Brewing Company co-owner Marcus Baskerville. | Photo courtesy Weathered Souls Brewing Company

Marcus Baskerville rocked the beer universe in the summer of 2020 by launching his Black is Beautiful initiative. Co-owner of Weathered Souls Brewing Company in the Alamo City, he shared his base stout recipe and invited breweries to use it or create their own version and name it Black is Beautiful. He requested that breweries donate all proceeds from that beer’s sales to local charities and organizations that support equality, inclusion, and social justice. At press time, more than 1,200 breweries in all 50 states and 22 countries were participating.

“Seeing so many wanting to be involved gives me hope that we’re heading in the right direction for change,” says Baskerville.

Grilled jerk chicken with Rice ‘N Peas and cabbage slaw. | Photo courtesy The Jerk Shack

Grilled jerk chicken with Rice ‘N Peas and cabbage slaw. | Photo courtesy The Jerk Shack

Head over to The Jerk Shack for Caribbean flavors inspired by chef-owner Nicola Blaque’s trip to her Jamaica homeland a few years ago. The restaurant’s biggest hits are its spicy-smoky jerk chicken and jerk pork, which you can enjoy in tacos with pineapple, cabbage, and cilantro-lime-avocado cream.

The Jerk Shack chef-owner Nicola Blaque. | Photo courtesy The Jerk Shack

The Jerk Shack chef-owner Nicola Blaque. | Photo courtesy The Jerk Shack

Blaque opened her sister restaurant, Mi Roti, at The Pearl in 2020; it specializes in wraps and bowls with Caribbean-inspired fillings.

Just south of downtown, Tony G’s Soul Food gets top marks for favorites like smothered pork chops with collard greens, okra, and grits, as well as the best fried chicken around. Tony G’s and its owner, Tony Gradney, won additional fans by providing meals to first responders during the pandemic.

Black-owned businesses in Houston

The Breakfast Klub founder Marcus Davis. | Photo by Kennon Evett

The Breakfast Klub founder Marcus Davis. | Photo by Kennon Evett

In Houston’s Midtown neighborhood, you can count on a line of folks—politicians, hairstylists, you name it—waiting for tables inside the bustling The Breakfast Klub (TBK) coffee shop. Now in its 21st year, TBK is famous for its pork chops and eggs, Biskits & Gravy, Katfish & Grits, and Wings & Waffle. The bonus is the big smile with a side of warm hospitality offered by founder Marcus Davis.

Lucille’s chef Chris Williams. | Photo by Kennon Evett

Lucille’s chef Chris Williams. | Photo by Kennon Evett

Meanwhile, in the Museum District, chef Chris Williams calls on his training in French, Mediterranean, West Indian, and East African cuisines to attract national attention to his dishes at Lucille’s.

Braised oxtail with Serrano Cheddar Grits. | Photo by Kennon Evett

Braised oxtail with Serrano Cheddar Grits. | Photo by Kennon Evett

Named for his beloved great-grandmother, Lucille’s has earned raves for its butter bean hummus, fried green tomatoes, braised oxtails, and roasted acorn squash stuffed with quinoa, kuchela, and collard greens. In early 2022, Williams is teaming up with fellow Houston chef Dawn Burrell—a James Beard Award semifinalist, track-and-field competitor in the 2000 Olympics, and 2021 Top Chef contestant—to open Late August. There, the duo will woo palates with their Afro-Asian creations.

Black-owned businesses in Austin

Baby Greens owner Sharon Mays | Photo by Nitya Jain

Baby Greens owner Sharon Mays | Photo by Nitya Jain

Austin’s Baby Greens became an instant hit upon opening in 2004. Proprietor Sharon Mays dreamed up the concept of serving quick, healthy meals on the fly when she realized there were no fast-food options for people eating “clean” diets. Her salads, wraps, and soups come in vegetarian and vegan options.

The signature Rainbow Wrap, a blend of salad greens with purple cabbage, carrot, avocado, tomato, pumpkin seeds, and feta with green goddess dressing, bursts with vivid textures and flavors. And the strawberry lemonade is a must.

Emmer & Rye (E&R) has also earned a loyal Austin fan base, thanks in part to pastry chef and partner Tavel Bristol-Joseph. Born in Guyana and trained in New York, Bristol-Joseph teamed up with E&R chef-owner Kevin Fink to create several restaurants, including E&R (where the blackened grapefruit panna cotta is swoon-worthy), and sister restaurants Hestia (which features dishes cooked in a 20-foot hearth), TLV (a Middle Eastern restaurant inspired by Israeli street foods), and Kalimotxo (a tapas bar). His work even inspired the Greater Black Chamber of Commerce and Austin Community College to create the Bristol-Joseph Culinary Scholarship Fund.

Black-owned businesses in Hill Country

Dotson-Cervantes winery's Alphonse Dotson. | Photo by Dave Shafer

Dotson-Cervantes winery's Alphonse Dotson. | Photo by Dave Shafer

In the western reaches of the Hill Country, between Brady and Llano at the tiny burgh of Voca, a surprise awaits in the Dotson-Cervantes winery. It’s where a former NFL defensive tackle found his calling. Leaving the world of professional football (he played for the Oakland Raiders) far behind, Houston native Alphonse Dotson teamed up with his wife, Martha Cervantes, to start a vineyard.

After producing fruit for award-winning wineries like Fall Creek Vineyards, they began making their own wines. Their Gotas de Oro muscat, a white blend called Perseverance, and a red blend called Something Red have all won awards. Guests visiting the tasting room can try some wines available only at the winery (be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol). It’s well worth the drive to this rocky, rugged landscape, where the sunsets are spectacular, to enjoy a pour and hear about the journey from gridiron to farmer to winemaker.

June Naylor is an award-winning travel journalist, dining critic, and food writer with more than 20 years of experience.

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