Chesapeake keeps visitors active and inspired year-round with our many attractions, restaurants, and shops. Black entrepreneurs are an integral part of our city’s unique offerings. Their contribution to Chesapeake’s economy and tourism scene is dynamic, with an impact felt throughout the community.
Alkalicious Cold Pressed Juice Bar
Lisa Glapion-Bey opened Alkalicious at the end of 2016 as one of the first all-vegan restaurants in Chesapeake. Her mission: to provide alkaline, plant based food options that are healthy and delicious.
“As of 2019, 88% of Americans were considered metabolically unhealthy,” says Glapion-Bey. “We're trying to show people there are a lot of different options for entering into the plant-based realm. People often think of plant-based food as limiting, but people who try Alkalicious are surprised by how delicious it is.”
Beyond smoothies and juices, you can also get plant-based paninis, soups, smoothie bowls and a black bean burger that customers rave about, known as the Big Sexy.
“Our Big Sexy caught on very quickly,” says Glapion-Bey. “It's a black bean burger with oats and carrots, and then we blend in our own herbs and spices. It’s served on a Dave's Killer bun with vegan cheese and spinach, cucumber, tomato and onion.”
Not only is the food fresh and delicious, it also leaves customers feeling great afterward.
“Every day, somebody comes in and says thank you for being here,” says Glapion-Bey. It's the thing that keeps me going.”
Cutlass Grille Restaurant, a family-owned establishment, specializes in authentic Jamaican cuisine. Founded by Shawn and Rachel Dawkins, it started as a weekend concession venture, serving their signature Jerk Chicken and Pork. Shawn's cooking skills, honed by replicating his mother's classic Jamaican recipes, are a cornerstone of the restaurant's success.
The name Cutlass Grille honors Shawn's heritage, referencing a tool commonly used in Jamaican farming. Shawn's commitment to cooking with the same love and care as for his own family remains the restaurant's guiding principle.
“Our most popular dish is a tie between two,” says Shawn. “Jerk chicken and oxtails. They’re the most popular items on the menu. But if someone asks me what’s the best thing on the menu, I tell them...everything. Because when I create a menu, I’m only offering the best of the best.”
The Dawkins and their team cook upwards of 150 pounds of oxtails a day. Goat is also immensely popular at Cutlass Grille, requiring the team to cook 300 pounds of goat every week.
“Seeing how successful the restaurant has become is a humbling experience,” says Shawn. “It keeps you grounded. You just want this to continue putting out good product and having a good report among your customers and making this a community-based space.”
Dan Johnson’s venture into the BBQ business began in 1988. Little did he know, his recipes would turn him into a five-time winner of Best Ribs in America.
“When I was in the military, there was plenty of seafood here, but I couldn’t find any BBQ,” says Johnson. “It’s the opposite of where I came from in Arkansas and Tennessee.”
Johnson served in the military for 32 years and earned a Purple Heart for a bullet wound he received during the Vietnam War. Smoked meats and sandwiches are menu staples at Johnson’s BBQ, a compact, family–owned BBQ joint in simple digs.
Growing up, Johnson and his family celebrated the weekend by cooking BBQ. “Ribs and brisket are my favorite things to cook. They’re what I compete with around the country.”
Johnson and his team travel nationwide to compete, serving huge crowds that can’t wait to try his famous BBQ. In Reno, where the competition brought in 500,000 people, Johnson and his team ran 12 lines to meet the massive demand.
His signature sauces include a sweet sauce and a spicy, “thermonuclear” sauce first developed by his father during World War II. When asked about what pepper he uses in his hot sauce, Johnson laughed. “You can get military secrets faster than you can get that recipe.”
At age 80, Johnson still travels to compete around the country four months a year, bringing his award-winning BBQ to excited customers all over the U.S. “I like the competition,” he says. “It challenges you to be your very best.”
Now You're Cooking Culinary Studio
Chef Dedra Blount and her identical twin sister, Debra Brabson, opened Now You’re Cooking Culinary Studio to share their passion for healthy meals through education, exploration and invitation to the culinary arts.
In the decade since Now You’re Cooking opened its doors, people of all ages have taken a newfound confidence home with them to their kitchen. Some have even excelled in the professional space—including a young, aspiring student who appeared twice on Food Network’s Kids Baking Championship.
Debra Brabson heads up classes for kids, including those with special needs. “My favorite part of the job is turning a light on for them,” she says. “I enjoy them being proud of themselves and trying new things. It’s amazing how these kids respond to enjoying the fruits of their labor.”
“The expectation is to have a whole lot of fun,” says Chef Dedra Blount. “We laugh a lot, we dance and we make some really good food. We teach them that cooking means both sharing and giving.”
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