By Raven Jordan
Bus tours are nothing new, but tours focused on both Black history and food are a recent development on the scene.
Food historian Deah Berry-Mitchell started the Soul of DFW bus tours in 2018 and has been taking locals to Black-owned restaurants, historically Black landmarks and other sites to shed a light on history and small business owners’ stories.
Visitors on the tour aren’t just from Dallas, with some coming from Waxahachie and Corsicana for the experience. In 2020, the tours expanded to Fort Worth.
“We visit Black-owned restaurants for food samples and I talk about the foods on some occasions,” Mitchell says. “Then we get a chance to speak with the owners about their restaurants, their favorite dishes, any challenges that they’ve had and what they see for the future. Pretty much like a little short Q&A with them.”
Unlike some bus tours that include itineraries for where passengers can expect to visit over the course of five hours, Mitchell doesn’t reveal the stops until they’re on the bus.
She does this so there are no predetermined assumptions made or reluctance from those who have already tried a certain place in the past.
“I never release the places that I’m going ahead of time. It’s the element of surprise,” she says.
On one of the latest tours, which was April 22, I had the chance to see just what one of the tours was like as the group made stops at four historical spots and small businesses. Each Dallas tour always kicks off at the African American Museum as a meeting and boarding point.
The first stop on this particular tour was the historic Forest Theater, which was once owned by Erykah Badu and is currently under renovation for the nonprofit Forest Forward.
Next was the Grow DeSoto Marketplace, where the group sampled food from 2Neighbors Burgers and Shakes and learned about how owner Winfred Dalcour and his family came to own it.
Dalcour shared how the establishment was a soul food restaurant before splitting into hot chicken and burger spots.
“My family and I came in the marketplace, and we came to an old church member who had 2Neighbors Soul Food Cafe before,” he says. “What she did was she split it. When she broke it in half, half was the hot chicken, and half was the burger side. She was operating the burger side. We began to talk and she said that she wanted to retire, she wanted to give it up. I’m saying I’m a math teacher, talk to me. How much do you want? She took the keys, put it in my hands and said, “It’s yours.’”
Other stops on the tour included Smith Spot BBQ in Garland and the Juanita J. Craft House (which is opening as a museum later this month). On the journey to each, Mitchell shared history about the food, Freedman Towns in Dallas and the significance of Anderson Bonner Park in North Dallas.
The next Soul of DFW Tour, called the Emancipation Tour, will take place June 10.