Marcus Jones said his Utah barbecue sauce and catering company launched in 2003, but it really began more than a century ago in Arkansas.
The Southern recipe originated with Jones’ great-grandfather, who passed it on to his grandmother — Miss Essie. She passed it to her son, Manuel, who then launched the business with Jones — a former University of Utah football player.
Miss Essie’s is one of dozens of Black-owned restaurants, food trucks, markets, caterers and producers in Utah.
A heightened push to back these businesses began last summer, when many consumers decided one way to fight racial inequity was to frequent Black-owned businesses. Since then, though, the focus has waned.
But the work never stops, said Lex Scott, leader of Black Lives Matter Utah. These businesses provide jobs and support other efforts within the community all year long.
“The best way to celebrate Black History Month is to support Black-owned businesses year-round,” she said. “Lift them up with your dining dollars.”
For Utahns who would like to revive or redouble their efforts in February — for Black History Month — and throughout the year, here is a hefty helping of Black-owned food enterprises:
Diversion: A Social Eatery • Located in the Salt Lake City’s Marmalade neighborhood, owners Ryan Peterson and Jennifer Stone serve healthy all-American fare such as hamburgers, tacos and pizzas that are baked, not fried, 535 N. 300 West, Salt Lake City; (801) 657-7326 or diversioneatery.com.
11 Hauz • This family-owned and operated Jamaican restaurant serves recipes handed down from chef/owner Sheron Grant’s grandmother, 1241 Center Drive, Park City; 435-200-8972 or 11hauz.com.
Horn of Africa • Somali and East African food in a west Salt Lake City strip mall, 1320 S. Swaner Road, Salt Lake City; 801-908-5498 or somali-restaurant-slc.business.site.
Joe’s Cafe • Southern breakfasts, including biscuits, gravy and grits, as well as sandwiches and burgers for lunch, 1126 S. State, Orem; 801-607-5377 or joescafeorem.com.
Mahider Ethiopian • The combination platter is an ideal way to sample Ethiopian stews, vegetables and flatbread, 1465 S. State St., Suite 7, Salt Lake City; 801-975-1111 or mahiderethiopian.com.
Sauce Boss Southern Kitchen • Chef Julius Thompson serves catfish, blackened pork chops, shrimp, grits and other soul-food favorites with collard greens, mac ‘n’ cheese and other popular sides, 877 E. 12300 South, Draper; 385-434-2433 or saucebosssouthernkitchen.com.
Yoko Ramen • This small noodle shop was purchased about 18 months ago by Jameel Gaskins (formerly of Pago). It serves several varieties of ramen, sandwiches, wings and gyoza, 473 E. 300 South, Salt Lake City; 801-876-5267 or https://www.yokoslc.com.
James’ Gourmet Pies • Pineapple is the not-so-secret ingredient in James Edwards’ popular sweet potato pies. They are sold in full and mini sizes at farmers markets, events and online at jamesgourmet.com.
Lovee’s Cakes • Cakes, cookies and desserts for birthdays, weddings and other special occasions, 1706 E. 5600 South, South Ogden; 801-390-6114 or loveescakes.com.
Pies the LImit • Dominique Wilson’s pie-baking hobby turned into a full-fledged bakery in 2020, when the Louisiana native opened this pickup-only shop in Salt Lake City. The menu for the 9-inch fruit and cream pies changes monthly, but the specialty — blueberry sour cream — never leaves the rotation. Savory dinner pies include chicken, roast beef, macaroni and cheese, and vegetable. Order at instagram.com/pies_the_limitut or 801-856-7511. Pickup Tuesday and Friday at the commercial kitchen inside Valley Behavioral Health, 1020 S. Main, Salt Lake City.
Sheer Ambrosia • While growing up in North Carolina, owner Sherrita “Rita” Magalde worked in a Greek restaurant, babysat the owner’s children and learned to make gourmet baklava from their “yiayia” or grandmother. Orders by phone or online at 801-891-6242 or sheerambrosiabakery.com.
Black-owned food trucks
Balabe • This orange truck takes Utah diners on a trip to Senegal, a country in West Africa where one of the most popular dishes is mafe, a rich tomato and peanut butter stew with chicken, fish or lamb. The truck serves it two ways: over rice or on french fries, the latter is a twist on Canadian poutine. Visit facebook.com/balabeslc.
Dawgz-N-Leenks • Owner Pete Richards sells beef hot dogs, sausages and traditional Southern hot links, including his Da Bay, wrapped in bacon, topped with grilled onions and peppers and his housemade barbecue sauce. Visit facebook.com/DawgznLeenks.
Jamaica’s Kitchen • From spicy-sweet jerk chicken to tender goat curry with rice and beans, this truck delivers Caribbean flavors and vibes. Visit facebook.com/jamaicaskitchenslc.
Makaya Catering • Owner Roody Salvator sells Haitian street food from this food truck, including marinated chicken, pulled pork, plantains and pikliz, a spicy cabbage, carrot and vinegar slaw. Call or text 801-493-5873 for pickup at 1051 S. 300 West on Friday and Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. Delivery available through Chefpanzee. Details at facebook.com/makaya.caters.
Taste of Louisiana • Menu includes Southern favorites like seafood gumbo, toasted po’ boy sandwiches and peach cobbler. Pickup and delivery available at 801-864-6203 or tasteoflouisianautah.com.
African Discount Market • Located in a Salt Lake City area strip mall, this market sells ingredients for favorite African and Caribbean meals, from fresh yam tubers and bitter leaves to dehydrated cod and smoked shrimp,. There also are dried goods like noodles and peeled black-eyed peas for steamed moi-moi cakes. Utahns also visit this store for its beauty supplies, 3232 S. 400 East, 801-467-3100 or facebook.com/Africandiscountmarket/.
Corner Stop • The drinks and snacks at the Corner Stop in Salt Lake City have names and flavors you won’t find in large grocery and convenience stores — sodas like Faygo, usually found in the Midwest, and munchies like hot chili squid potato chips popular in Asia, said Cordero Curtis, who owns the convenience store specializing in “exotics” and “smokes” at 203 E. Hampton Ave. Details 385-528-0781.
Local Food Walking Tours • Founder and owner Maurice “Moe” Egan guides guests on a tasting tour of either downtown Salt Lake City or Main Street in Park City. The two-hour trips are generously seasoned with historical facts and samples from four restaurants. Call 801-597-1157 or localfoodwalkingtours.com.
Mama Africa Pili-Pili Hot Sauce • Cathy Tshilombo-Lokemba — better known as “Mama Africa” — was a fashion and interior designer turned restaurant owner. There, she began bottles of her spicy, African hot sauce. It is available at Caputo’s Market and Deli, in Salt Lake City.
Miss Essie’s Barbecue Sauce • In addition to the original sweet-smoky barbecue sauce, the company makes three other flavors — honey, honey mustard and apple cider vinegar. They are sold in Harmons, Whole Foods, Associated Food Stores and soon in Smith’s Food & Drug stores. Miss Essie’s Catering has smoked meats and sides that can be ordered online for pickup at its commercial kitchen, 6064 S. 300 West, Murray. Details at 801-262-3616 or missessiesbbq.com.
Rob Sauce • This bottled glaze is “better than barbecue sauce,” according to owner Rob Clark, who says it gives that umami taste to wings, beef, vegetables and even tofu. Available online and select grocery stores. Details at: https://www.therobsauce.com/.
Van Kwartel Flavor Science • Caribbean drink mixes, sauces, marinades and spice blends are made using chiles grown in Utah. Products can be purchased online or in person at The Store in Salt Lake City and Holladay. From June through October, they are available at the Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park. The owners also recently opened Van Kwartel’s Cecret Mercantile, a winter pop up at Alta Ski Area with breakfast burritos, pastries and drinks.
Policy Kings Brewery • This nano-brewery/bar makes small-batch beers and is named for the historic Chicago gambling empire that provided financial support for Black businesses in the 1930s and ’40s, 223 N. 100 West, Cedar City; policykingsbrewery.com.
Benji’s Bar-B-Que Shack • Owner Benji Stalling went from sitting behind a desk to standing over a hot smoker. And the former banker turned pit master couldn’t be happier about the switch. He opened a 24-hour barbecue restaurant in 2019, but the location has closed. Now Stalling — who spent much of his youth in Georgia — is in the catering business. His menu includes smoked meats (tri tip, brisket, pulled pork, ribs and prime rib), side dishes and desserts. benjisbbqshack.com
Casual Cuisine • After a 32-year career as a flight attendant, Melinda Anderson turned her passion for cooking into a business. She graduated from culinary school and spent time working in the industry before launching Casual Cuisine Caterers in 2006. While Anderson knows barbecue and Southern food, her family-run business, which operates out of a commercial kitchen in Taylorsville, has created menus for all types of family and corporate events from Jewish bar mitzvahs to Indian weddings. 801-554-6581 or casualcuisinecaterers.com.
Eddy’s Magic Spoon • Owner Eddy Aklasso says her specialty is “Afro-fusion,” which combines French and West African cuisines. Her menu is available for private parties and business events and includes marinated and grilled meats — such as beef and chicken kabobs, whole fish and roasts — as well as flavorful fried rices. 801-938-9949 or facebook.com/eddysmagicspoon.
The Hammered Copper • Master mixologist Alexi Johnson Fisher launched her mobile bartending service in 2018 at age 28. Since then, she has taught cocktail and mocktail classes at the Park City Culinary Institute and made Utah Business Magazine’s list of “20 in their 20s,” as a young entrepreneur to watch. Visit thehammeredcopper.com/
Melange Liquid Catering • From nonalcoholic dirty sodas to custom cocktails, owner Oz Hutton brings mobile bartending services to wedding receptions, backyard parties and corporate events. Visit melangeliquidcatering.com.
Spice Kitchen Incubator • This Salt Lake City refugee program has several food entrepreneurs who provide international cuisines for events and parties. Options include African Spice, Kafe Mamai and Namash Swahili, 751 W. 800 South. Call 385-229-4484 or visit spicekitchenincubator.org.
Zahara • Amina Ait Omar, a classically trained Moroccan chef, and her co-owner, Mohamed Baayd, cater events and sponsor pop-up dining. Their specialties include lamb, chicken and vegetable tagine and couscous with teffya — caramelized onions, raisins and garbanzo beans. 385-212-4518 or zaharaslc.com/.