Explore Historically Black Oak Cliff With Recs From Two Local Experts
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When it comes to Oak Cliff, people often think of the Bishop Arts District and its trendy shops and retailers, though little else. But, ever since 1903 when the city of Oak Cliff annexed itself to the city of Dallas, the sprawling geographical region couldn't and can’t be categorized by one section alone. Long celebrated as one of Dallas’ historically Black neighborhoods, Oak Cliff has a rich history that can be seen (and tasted) to this day on every corner of its scenic boundaries.
To help commemorate Black History Month and honor Oak Cliff’s contribution to the culture of North Texas, we turned to two women with an intimate knowledge of the area to offer their recommendations for go-to Black-owned businesses to support year-round, not just in February. A couple of their picks fall just outside the official borders of Oak Cliff, but they’re close enough (and good enough) to include.
Dalila Thomas keeps busy as a freelance food and culture writer, publicist, and co-founder of The Soul of DFW Food and Black History Bus Tour, which has been on hiatus due to the pandemic, but poised to return as soon as things get back to normal. She’s written for a variety of publications, including Cosmopolitan and The Dallas Morning News, and you can find links to all her work (and hire her for a gig) at her website, StarvingonaBudget.com.
One of Oak Cliff’s most beloved bakeries, Kessler Baking Studio started out with a focus on cookies before expanding into a variety of other scrumptious treats, all made with love by Clyde Greenhouse, a 2020 James Beard Nominee for Outstanding Baker. Best of all, you can ship his goodies to friends and family nationwide thanks to a partnership with Goldbelly.
What Thomas says: “Stepping into Kessler Baking Studio is like stepping into grandma’s house. The aroma of fresh baked goods is intoxicating. My favorites include the brownies and cinnamon rolls.”
How to order: Call 214-948-7412 or order online for pickup and delivery.
There’s nothing fancy about this counter service restaurant known for made-to-order seafood, but the fried deliciousness always draws a crowd of devoted fans. From fried shrimp to Cajun fried turkey, the portions are plentiful and the prices are affordable. But the one dish they’re best known for is also why Thomas likes to visit.
What Thomas says: “Catfish Floyd’s has—hands down—the best catfish in the city. I tend to toggle between the filets or the ‘whole cat’ (whole piece of catfish), which both come with fries and hush puppies.”
How to order: Call 214-375-3736 or visit the drive-thru for takeout.
This charming shop’s website claims that it’s the “shortest trip to Africa without getting on a plane” and with the wide variety of merchandise and experiences available, we’re inclined to agree wholeheartedly.
What Thomas says: “Pan African Connection Bookstore is a great place to go to buy books from Black authors, art, clothing, sage, shea butter—honestly, everything!”
Located in a food desert, Recipe Oak Cliff addresses food security issues while focusing on a variety of plant-based food and beverages, including weekly meal plans. Through the shared kitchen, other vegan creators share their soul-enriching foods through pop-ups every week. Cooking classes and catering services round out the offerings.
What Thomas says: “Recipe Oak Cliff is a gem that has a lot of good, fresh juices and vegan-friendly meals to choose from.”
How to order: Call 469-930-8284 to order takeout.
A collective of organizations focusing on cultivating a stronger, healthier, and more self-reliant community, the Oak Cliff Veggie Project features a community garden and works to address food insecurity through a variety of programs.
What Thomas says: “Oak Cliff Veggie Project is not a storefront, but a non-profit and community garden initiative doing some great things in Dallas—including distributing free produce. You can support by getting your hands dirty and volunteering at their Singing Hills garden location.”
When three sisters decided to reopen a family business that had been closed for more than a decade, they started with recipes created by their mother (aka Ms. Kookie) and now have a thriving dessert business that’s a favorite in the community and throughout North Texas.
What Thomas says: “Kookie Haven is a family-owned bakery serving everything from cookies to square bites—which are their square-shaped cupcakes. My favorite flavors are wedding cake, strawberry, and vegan chocolate.”
How to order: Call 972-373-4084 or order online for takeout and delivery.
“Buy Black” is the mantra (and hashtag) best associated with this venue specializing in showcasing the work of DFW-area minority and Black-owned enterprises, located next to Haus of Vintage Dallas.
What Thomas says: “Back Haus Dallas is an event space created to highlight Black-owned businesses. I recently visited and was introduced to a handful of vendors including The Butter Fairy.”
An avid traveler and long-time Oak Cliff resident, Anisha Mandol has the technical culinary training coupled with an immense passion for food, whether it's from street vendors or Michelin-starred fine-dining establishments. Her curiosity about food culture and travel led to a career in food & beverage operations and product innovation/business development for prepared foods at Central Market, allowing her to travel the world to help create recipes for the brand that evoked authentic flavors and cultural experiences from the farthest corners of the globe. In addition to always exploring her neighborhood for the latest and greatest, she’s currently consulting for clients to help bring to fruition their business ideas, including concept design, business strategies, and menu development—while having fun throughout the entire process.
Step inside this charming shop and it’s a little like being in a French bakery tucked away on a side street in bustling Paris. The laid back elegance makes it a welcoming spot for enjoying classic pastries from macarons to eclairs and their famous “Un-cupcake” in a jar.
What Mandol says: “With Samantha’s formal pastry training, her baked goodies are solid in technique with a dash of fun.”
How to order: Call 214-749-4040 for takeout. Delivery available with 24 hours advance notice.
Traditional Jamaican food, including jerk-spiced and curried proteins, join tropical cocktails and a well-stocked rum bar for a fun meal in a lively eatery. The food pays tribute to Mama Joyce, whose recipes the family turns to for authenticity and inspiration.
What Mandol says: “This is the spot for chill vibes, rum tastings, and a delicious oxtail stew.”
How to order: Call 972-923-4919 or order online for pickup and delivery.
Everything’s 100% plant-based, but even carnivores might be surprised at the soul-nourishing options ranging from Nashville hot cauliflower tacos to a hearty version of chicken and grits—all in the cozy wood-accented dining room in a charming old home.
What Mandol says: “Here the vegan food is spiked with warm flavors and textures. The crunchy fried cauliflower burger is a must.”
How to order: Call 469-248-0297 or order online for takeout and delivery.
Every visit to this resale and consignment shop is an adventure in retail therapy with unique, carefully curated items in a well-merchandised boutique setting.
What Mandol says: “This retail storefront, with a mission to provide skills and employment for women re-entering the community from prison, has some of the best pre-owned clothing finds in Oak Cliff.”
When that fried chicken craving hits (like you know it will), legions of longtime fans have turned to this Oak Cliff legend for a two-piece snack or whole chickens to serve a crowd. They’re also known for their Sugar Daddy, which consists of fried wings topped with powdered sugar and a honey-maple glaze.
What Mandol says: “The crispy fried chicken and sides, like fried okra and Sugar Mama sweet potato fries, makes the perfect plate.”
How to order: Call 469-828–1999 or order online for takeout or order third-party delivery from DoorDash or Postmates.
This tiny spot has been celebrated for its burgers for years and always draws a crowd of locals and destination diners alike, so don’t be surprised if someone blocks you in the parking lot. But consider it a blessing as you utilize that time to crank up the radio and enjoy your food while it’s piping hot.
What Mandol says: “This takeout-only burger joint is the place for a hot ‘off the griddle’ juicy burger. The beef pattie is packed with flavor, and will likely fall apart before you finish it—a sign of deliciousness. Try the bacon cheeseburger, a must for their regular fans.”
How to order: Call 214-943-5214 or order online for takeout and delivery.