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How Oakland’s Souley Vegan Became a Soul Food Empire

It’s been almost a year since we started social distancing ourselves and staying home making mountains of sourdough, Korean whipped coffee, and focaccia bread art. With all the deliciousness at home that we have mastered, we are ready for our favorite restaurants! Though travel is still off the table, we’re celebrating with a delicious tour of the stories – and recipes – of some of the most popular black-owned vegan restaurants in America. From soul food in Detroit to Ethiopian food in Brooklyn to a soul food empire in Oakland, get ready because it’s time to eat.

Souley Vegan in the making

Just running and maintaining a restaurant is sufficient, as most independent restaurants close in the first five years. But somehow, with just $ 27 on the cash register and zero savings, single mom Tamearra Dyson was unswerving as she quit her nursing graduate degree and opened the doors to what was going to be quick Souley Vegan, one of the best vegan soul food restaurants in the country. More than a decade later, it is clear that Dyson made the right decision – their Louisiana-inspired recipes have attracted customers and accolades, and even earned a spot as one of the few vegan restaurants on the Food Network Diners, drive-ins and dives.


Southern staples veganized

It is not for nothing that Dyson has chosen the restaurant as one of the 10 best soul food restaurants in the country. Their Southern Staples Bowl warms customers on chilly Bay Area evenings with steaming, creamy grains, breaded and fried tofu, and a heavy scoop of okra gumbo. For a fire, opt for the Deez Ain’t Gator Bites with diced Louisiana Hot Links, Creole-flavored mushrooms and homemade “swamp sauce” – a spicy, mustardy barbecue sauce (don’t be afraid to add a couple of mother hen, even of hot sauce ). But maybe the most popular dish? The Soul Food Platter Combo plate with juicy fried tofu from the south, skillfully cooked red beans and rice as well as silky cashew mac and cheese.


Why we love Souley Vegan

In 2020, when more than 100,000 restaurants across the country succumbed to COVID-19, Dyson’s tenacity was kicked into high gear. She decided to expand Souley Vegan with a new take-out and delivery-only model, initially in Los Angeles, followed by other Bay Area outposts in San Francisco and Oakland. And at a time when convenience was most needed, the new Souley Vegan Ghost Kitchens – a model Dyson believes is the future of the restaurant industry – enable customers to cook soulfully from the safety of their own homes .

Read the entire feature of the Great American Black Vegan Restaurant Tour at latest edition of VegNews now at the kiosk! For more stories about black-owned vegan restaurants around the country, check out our Black-Owned Restaurants web series. Don’t miss our coverage of Seasoned Vegan, Mattie’s Groceries, Chi Chi Vegans, and Vurger Guyz.

Credit: Aubrie Pick (Header) and Kimmy 5 (Souley Vegan Exterior)

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