Black-owned restaurants offer wealth of diverse, delicious fare
The region’s Black chefs and cooks are turning out delicious dishes that are as wide-ranging as they are flavorful. Among the restaurants and food trucks run by Black proprietors, you’ll find soul-food, vegan dishes, Haitian classics, zesty Jamaican food and whatever else strikes their fancy. The only requirement: customers arrive hungry because they will want to enjoy every bite. Here’s a look at an eclectic mix of 10 spots where you will eat well and, with but perhaps one exception, most likely blow your diet (without regret, of course).
BEACH BROTHERS BBQ
Run by Stan and Susan Peoples, this was once a brick-and-mortar location filled with the most glorious barbecue aromas known to man. These days, they run a food truck that moves about, but the couple thoughtfully posts their schedule on their Facebook page. They can often be found in front of No. 3 Craft Brew & Beer Bar in Cape Coral. Why go to the trouble of finding them? Well, you may be a devotee of St. Louis style ribs or perhaps it’s Andouille sausage you crave. My personal favorite is Chef Stan’s smoked brisket, which is tender within and crusty without, deeply seasoned and just perfect. Put some sauce on it if you must. I maintain it’s perfect just the way it emerges from the smoker.
CHELLE’S SPECIAL TOUCH
Chef-owner Michelle Pope took a Po’ Boys situated on a somewhat inconspicuous spot in late 2018 and transformed it into her personal culinary palace known as Chelle's Special Touch. Virtually everything is made from scratch, including her chicken strips, something that many restaurateurs buy from a distributor. While the current state of things has made service a little problematic – grab-and-go takeout right now, you can still feast on her crab-stuffed salmon, beef stew, Cajun-fried turkey wings, stuffed shells, stuffed portobello mushrooms, shrimp fried rice and wings in a raft of flavors (try the sweet and sassy for a little kick). The menu changes daily, but don’t worry – there’s always something wonderful to try. And it’s best to go early for optimum selection.
DEEP DOWN SOUTH BBQ
You won’t be dissing military chow once you taste the food at Deep Down South. That’s because Albert Houston got his first taste of the culinary life in the Marines while serving in Operation Desert Storm. He followed that up with more traditional training at Johnson & Wales and now, with more than 30 years of experience, he knows his way around a hog, not to mention garlic crabs, apple smoked chicken and baked goods like red velvet cake, sweet potato pie and banana pudding. Soul food Sundays feature specialties such as oxtails, turkey wings and smothered pork chops. Other goodies include gator bites, fried conch, freshwater bream.
You might think a food place inside a fitness club is mostly a juice bar. Well, Fibrre does offer freshly squeezed juice but Adenike Johnson offers so much more. She also creates luscious burgers out of vegan beet protein and quinoa, or black beans and corn topped with collard, kale, carrots, cucumber, onions, vegan dressing all tucked into bread. Or you can have all those fresh ingredients tucked into a box instead. There are lots of smoothies, drinks and vegan desserts like brownies, a smoothie bowl and chocolate chip cookies, too. Adenike makes great food that is designed to make you feel good, too.
Tiffani Blanks’ little Fly Foods joint looks unassuming from the outside but what she dishes up is anything but. Fried lobster bites, oxtail, chitlins and hog maws, smothered pork chops or ribs, fried or barbecued chicken, each with two sides like black-eyed peas, collard greens, fried okra, potato salad and, of course, cornbread. Check out her Facebook page and you’ll see what I mean.
IREI-I JAMAICAN AMERICAN CAFE
Chef Colin Gregg started as a line cook at chains like TGI Friday’s and Carrabba’s, then worked his way up to executive chef. In 2017, he decided to leave the corporate world and open his own place. Here he’s used his Jamaican heritage to craft wondrous versions of classics such as curry goat, stew chicken, jerk chicken, Jamaican beef patty, plantains, oxtails, rice and peas and luscious steamed red snapper. Everything is made from scratch; the menu is wide ranging, and you never know what the chef may dream up next.
It really is a family affair when it comes to Jonesez BBQ. There are Andre and Vickie Jones, nephew Caleb Jones and niece Savara Jones. And Andre’s parents, Remus and Nekia Jones. From their sprawling trucks parked in Lee and Hendry counties, they serve ribs, pulled pork, chicken and all the sides. It’s worth finding them for their big pork spareribs – and their mac and cheese is worth the calories, too. Come to think of it, there’s not much on their sprawling trucks that isn’t. I’m partial to the collards and cornbread. While food trucks come and go, Jonesez BBQ has been around for 11 years. Eat there once and you will understand their longevity.
LABADIE BAR RESTAURANT & BAKERY
There’s no end of places serving pasta, sushi and pho around here. But what about kalalou or griot or pork ragout? Haitian fare is hard to come by but Ronold and Aline Cadet serve it at Labadie. The restaurant may not be the grandest of restaurants when it comes to ambience, but you won’t think about that as you dig into the well-filled plates of zesty Haitian fare, which comes at extremely reasonable prices.
You have to know about Willie McCarter to know that the intensely fragrant whiff of barbecue you get while driving by his home along Martin Luther King Boulevard is more than a gathering of family and friends. There’s no sign (no Facebook page or website either) or any other indication that the succulent ribs are for sale. But it pays to stop and procure some of these smoky, succulent beauties, along with some white bread, wax paper, napkins and a bag, and go have a picnic someplace nearby (you’ll need to buy drinks and anything else you want elsewhere.) But don’t miss these ribs. The man is a master.
SPICE CARIBBEAN BAR & GRILL
This bastion of Jamaican fare features such goodies as curries, breads, oxtails, brown stew chicken and more. Everything comes in takeout containers, which is a good thing because you are likely to be taking home some of the large portions for another meal.