Six Bay Area Black-owned eateries to support

Suggestions for restaurants, cafes and dessert businesses to visit

With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement during the summer of 2020, individuals around the world began educating themselves and others on ways to support and offer solidarity to Black communities. With an influx of fundraisers, protests and educational conversations surrounding the movement, it’s important to continue to show support for the BLM movement in a tangible way. Especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more important to support local businesses. 

Click the map below to view six local Black-owned eateries in the Bay Area. Scroll further to see our review of each business. 

1) Nirvana Soul

Rating: 10/10 

What we ordered: Iced celebration latte with macadamia milk, Bacon and cheddar waffle 

Justine’s favorite part: They have a ton of different milk choices — 2%, whole, oat, almond and macadamia. As an oat milk fanatic, I was pleased and appreciative of the diverse milk selection. The macadamia milk initially gave the latte a really sweet flavor, but it was juxtaposed by the deep espresso flavor, which came through soon after. Overall, the celebration latte with the macadamia milk was a delightfully sweet and rich espresso drink. 

Tina’s favorite part: When I saw Justine immediately grab and dump the maple syrup across the whole waffle, I was honestly taken aback. I wasn’t exactly sure how bacon, cheddar and syrup would taste together, but it definitely changed my mind about sweet and savory dishes. It was just the right mix of flavors, as well as textures. The waffle itself was crispy, with a softer interior texture, while the bacon bits provided a more chewy aspect to the dish. 

Overall thoughts: It was extremely lively when we first stepped in the store; even before reaching the counter, we were immediately greeted by smiles and a welcome from the workers. The cafe’s decor was extremely cozy, with a mix of modern art and vibrant colors that significantly added to the buoyant atmosphere. The paintings, all empowerment and activism themed, definitely matched the co-owners’ personalities; it was evident that they both cared about creating an inclusive community. The music was a mix of popular, upbeat songs from Black artists across the decades, further matching their values and goals. 

2) Jon Jon’s BBQ

Rating: 8/10

What we ordered: Three ribs and a chicken thigh plate with two sides of beans and potato salad

Justine’s favorite part: As an intense bean hater, I was truly impressed with the depth of flavor that the side of beans had at Jon Jon’s. It had a sweet and tangy flavor that perfectly complemented the chewy texture. Tina can attest to this, but I will never shut up about the moment I tried these beans — it was truly a revelation for me.

Tina’s favorite part: Just ask Justine: anyone who saw me eating those ribs would immediately be able to tell how much I enjoyed them. At first, I tentatively ate the ribs and chicken with the fork and knife, but as I kept eating, it became too tempting to put down the utensils and I started to barbarically pick up the food with my hands. The chicken was definitely one of the most tender chicken pieces I’ve ever had in my 17 years of food critic experience — tender enough to easily cut through with plastic utensils. The following mess of barbeque sauce was definitely worth engulfing those ribs with my bare fingers. No regrets.

Overall thoughts: Although there was a lack of attentiveness from the workers at the restaurant, there was still a comfortable and laid-back vibe. If you’re craving a really solid, traditional American BBQ with superior meat, this place would definitely be the one to go to.

3) Don’t Glaze Me Donuts

Rating: 10/10

What we ordered: S’mores donuts, Nutella & Strawberry donuts, Iced Mocha w/ whipped cream

Justine’s favorite part: Both donut dishes were absolutely superb, but the main star of the show was definitely the donut dough itself. Without leaving a trace of oil behind, each mini donut was perfectly crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside — resulting in a truly enjoyable and addictive taste. 

Tina’s favorite part: At first, what excited me the most was simply how amazing the drink and the donuts looked — I spent the first few minutes just taking pictures of the dishes and admiring the placement of the toppings. I’ve never been a huge donut fanatic because they tend to be greasy, but these donuts were nowhere near oily. The donut dough, mixed with Nutella for one dish and S’mores mix for the other, definitely made my month. Not to mention the iced mocha, which I downed because of how well it complemented the donuts — the chocolate and coffee flavor combination wasn’t too sweet and didn’t overpower the dishes.

Overall thoughts: Not only was the food 10/10, but the co-owners at the donut truck were so welcoming and friendly as well. It was clear the two had a close dynamic — the fact that they were mother and daughter did not surprise us at all (when we saw the mother fixing her daughter’s hair for the interview and assuring her that she looked amazing, we both smiled). As we walked away after the interview, we immediately promised each other we would return soon.

4) DeeLee Cakes

Rating: 10/10

What we ordered: The chocolate “21 and over” pound cake

Justine’s favorite part: I rarely eat chocolate cake due to the overwhelming sweetness from the cake and frosting combined, but the chocolate pound cake at DeeLee’s really changed my perspective to the sweetness of desserts. When you first take a bite, a rich chocolate flavor is immediately present, then the light cream cheese frosting flavor comes in shortly after. I was never overwhelmed with sweetness from the overall cake. Coupled with the airy cake itself, the chocolate pound cake was truly addicting. 

Tina’s favorite part: I’m as enthusiastic about chocolate as Justine is with her oat milk and Baklava. The only cakes I honestly ever buy are always chocolate flavored and I can say with confidence that this cake was definitely one of the best I’ve had so far. The cake combined with the frosting both weren’t overpoweringly sweet like most cakes are. The cake crumb itself was definitely a prominent chocolate flavor, yet it didn’t come with the unnecessary sweetness that most cakes have. The frosting, although sweet, was added in just the right proportions to complement the cake as a whole. Not to mention the pecans that were added on top of the frosting — they added a satisfying crunch that also just enhanced the already amazing texture of the cake.

Overall thoughts: We had the best time talking to the owner and her friends and family — they were all so friendly and welcoming. The second the both of us walked up to their pop up shop, those gathered around the stand were already laughing with us and striking up a conversation. You can tell that the owner is passionate about her baking and how much her friends and family supported her.  Overall, the experience was just so sweet and genuine which definitely convinced us to visit again (also not to mention how heavenly the cake was). 

5) Back A Yard

Rating: 7/10

What we ordered: Jerk chicken plate, Mango passion fruit drink

Justine’s favorite part: The seasoning on the chicken was amazingly smoky and rich. Complemented with the rather plain coconut rice, the flavoring of the chicken helped elevate the dish. 

Tina’s favorite part: I had never tried fried plantains before, so that was my least favorite part about the dish. However, I enjoyed the rest of the plate a lot — the seasoning was elite. The chicken and coconut rice were well seasoned, and with the added hot sauce on the side, the mixture of flavors went really well together — nothing overpowered the taste of the other elements.

Overall thoughts: Despite the underwhelming taste from the overall Jerk chicken plate dish, our order was quickly prepared and ready by the time we reached the restaurant. We appreciated the thoughtfulness of the well-planned socially distanced pick up area. The workers who helped us with our food were especially generous and kind.

6) Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant 

Rating: 9/10

What we ordered: Meat combination plate of beef, lamb and chicken with baklava

Justine’s favorite part: The Baklava — a traditional Ethiopian dessert pastry — was truly life-changing. The layered pastry on top gave the dessert an amazing crunch, perfectly complemented by the sweet filling inside. It was my first time eating Baklava and it definitely did not disappoint — I will be planning a Bay Area Baklava hunt soon so I can eat more!

Tina’s favorite part: This combination plate was a dish that I did not regret digging into with my bare hands — the mix of the Injera with the meat and sauces provided a subtle sour taste along with the savory flavors. The meat itself wasn’t necessarily tender or enjoyable just by itself, but after I broke down the pieces a little more, the sauce made up for the meat’s lack of flavor. I would also like to attest to Justine’s Baklava life-changing revelation because her euphoric yells in the car definitely were something to witness. 

Overall thoughts: We had originally ordered our food on Doordash, but after arriving at the restaurant, we found out our initial order wasn’t available. The worker at the front counter genuinely seemed apologetic and even added in an extra Injera roll with our order to make up for what she thought was an inconvenience. Additionally, the decorations inside also provided a more authentic feel for the place.