Soul of Dallas bus tours combine food and restaurants with black history

A good food tour is never just about the food. It’s about the people, and the sights, smells and flavors they create that really make a neighborhood hum. Add a helping of local history and you have a recipe for a true community connection.

Dalila Thomas and Deah Berry Mitchell of Dallas launched the Soul of Dallas food and black history bus tours last year, which combine visits to black-owned restaurants — where tourgoers can sample food — with historical stops like museums, shops, landmarks, cemeteries and even entire neighborhoods.

“I think food is a good connector of people,” Mitchell says. “At the end of the day, it’s all food that brings us together to one table. Everyone loves it. Everyone is able to recall a specific memory tied to food.”

Deah Mitchell and Dalila Thomas are the founders of the Soul of Dallas food and black history bus tours.

Deah Mitchell and Dalila Thomas are the founders of the Soul of Dallas food and black history bus tours.

Nic Brent/

Thomas, a freelance food writer who runs Starving on a Budget, handles the food and restaurant part of the tour. Mitchell, who works in nonprofits and has a masters degree in creative writing from Southern Methodist University, coordinates the historical part of the tour.

Mitchell has a passion for the intersection of food and history, and has recently written the book Cornbread & Collard Greens: How West African Cuisine & Slavery Influenced Soul Food (Opportune Independent Publishing Co., $29.57).

“I handle the local black history part of the tour but also provide context for the food, insights into the food,” Mitchell says. “I talk about the origins of barbecue and how that began. I blend in my love of food culture.”

The tours run once a month and have various themes, such as barbecue, or focus on a particular neighborhood, such as Deep Ellum. The January tour included stops to Kessler Baking Studio, Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que and Bonton Farms. “Bonton is not black-owned but it’s important to people of color,” Mitchell says. “It has the food component and connections to the African-American community.”

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  • Clyde Greenhouse, owner of Kessler Baking Studio (center) hands out samples to attendees of the Soul of Dallas Bus Tour in Oak Cliff area of Dallas. 

    Clyde Greenhouse, owner of Kessler Baking Studio (center) hands out samples to attendees of the Soul of Dallas Bus Tour in Oak Cliff area of Dallas.

    Clarence Hodrick III/Special Contributor

  • Founders Dalila Thomas (Left) and Deah Mitchell (right) of the Soul of Dallas Bus tour give history and information about African American areas of Dallas.

    Founders Dalila Thomas (Left) and Deah Mitchell (right) of the Soul of Dallas Bus tour give history and information about African American areas of Dallas.

    Clarence Hodrick III/Special Contributor

  • Attendees of the Soul of Dallas Bus tour pose in front of the "Welcome To Bonton Farms" sign at Bonton Farms in Dallas.

    Attendees of the Soul of Dallas Bus tour pose in front of the “Welcome To Bonton Farms” sign at Bonton Farms in Dallas.

    Clarence Hodrick III/Special Contributor

Both Thomas and Mitchell have been heartened by the interest in the tours, and are excited to see what the future holds, possibly expanding to different cities.

“I do want people to know that the tours are not just for black people,” Mitchell says. “There are a lot of black people on the bus now, and I would love to see faces of every race on the bus. Dallas has a good history full of contributions from every race, but this is a way to highlight some lesser-known facts and culture of Dallas.”

The next tour, which emphasizes vegan restaurants, is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 23. All tours are $45. Sign up at eventbrite.com/e/soul-of-dallas-bus-tour-vegan-edition-tickets-49120015288?ref=estw. For more information, contact Dalila Thomas at [email protected].

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