February is Black History Month, and August is National Black Business Month – but any time of year is a great time to support local Black-owned businesses in Virginia Beach. They offer a variety of experiences and products, from restaurants with fine dining, Caribbean or Indian cuisine – to a company that turns beer byproducts into granola bars – to a tailor of custom-made suits – to shops that help customers and the planet be healthier.
Black-owned restaurants and other businesses are pillars of our coastal community. Check out local businesses that should be on everyone’s must-visit list.
All Good Granola Bars
It takes a special person to look at a pile of grain left over from home beer brewing and think it could become delicious and nutritious granola bars – and even a business. “It just smelled too good to throw out,” said Bryan Daniels, who was born and raised in Virginia Beach and is now a certified personal trainer and the owner of All Good Granola Bars.
The crunchy granola nuggets also keep a small portion of the byproducts from local craft breweries out of landfills. The grain – mostly malted barley and a little wheat – is discarded long before the fermentation process begins. Daniels dries and bakes the grain before adding ingredients such as dried fruit. His factory is also a coffee house where the granola bars are on the menu (they can also be ordered online by subscription). It’s unlikely you’ve ever eaten granola bars with names as creative as these: Cranberry Almond IPA, Coconut Mango Tropical IPA, Chocolate Berry Stout, Blueberry Hefeweizen and Pumpkin Spice Oktoberfest.
Ceremony is dedicated to the proposition that people don’t have to drink alcohol to have fun or celebrate special occasions. This dry bottle shop caters to those who imbibe in nonalcoholic or low-alcohol drinks, or who drink sometimes but also want nonalcoholic options. You’ll find an amazing variety of flavors that mimic spirits, wines and cocktails. In a nod to the environment, beverages come in easily recyclable glass or aluminum containers, and ship in plastic-free packaging locally and within the continental U.S., which fits the purpose of owner Chris Simmonds, as well as of its parent company, <Less Than, which is described later in this article.
CHEF SKIP 757
Virginia Beach native Christopher Skipper worked his way up from kitchen helper at age 15 to operating his own food truck to become the owner of two brick-and-mortar restaurants, both called Chef Skip 757. (One is in Virginia Beach, and the other is in Portsmouth.) Chef Skip’s menu features golden-brown, deep-fried delicacies, from shrimp and oyster po’ boys and crabcakes to clams and chicken wings. Also on the menu are shrimp, fish and oyster tacos, but Skipper says his Philly cheesesteak is one of his most popular items.
Cobalt Grille’s owner and executive chef, Alvin Williams, was born and raised by Jamaican parents in Leeds, England. Williams graduated from culinary school at the top of his class, and his talents won him positions in the kitchens of prestigious London properties such as the Grosvenor House Hotel. After visiting the Virginia Beach area on a visit to his sister’s home, Williams moved here, helping to create the fine-dining experience at Virginia Beach’s former Le Chambord. He opened Cobalt Grille in 2000 with restaurateur and businessman Gary Black. At the restaurant, diners can enjoy appetizers such as scallops Rockefeller and fried green tomatoes, entrees that range from beef Wellington to gourmet burgers, and desserts like tres leches cake, crème brulée and deep-fried Oreos. Williams has a small farm that supplies organic produce for the restaurant’s delicious dishes.
CLTRE. | VGN JNT
Luvenia “Luv” Hankins says she’s realized her childhood dream of creating a very personal café that attracts and supports a community of artists and creatives who share their work and ideas. Patrons of the CLTRE. (pronounced “culture,” and don’t forget the period) Vegan Joint (or VGN JNT) create art on the walls and participate in open-mic sessions while enjoying breakfast and lunch from an all-vegan menu. Stop in to taste vegan waffles in delicious flavors like cinnamon apple; Hawaiian (with pineapple, bananas, granola), Cream Cheez drizzle and coconut bacon; Chocolate Craze – or build your own. Sample vegan versions of avocado toast, a Brekkie Burrito, biscuits and gravy and Chik’n Biscuit, all of which you can enjoy with smoothies, coffee or tea. CLTRE. is located in the Inland District, with a second location in Norfolk.
THE DAPPER LUQ COLLECTION
The Dapper Luq Collection was started in 2019 by Luqman Haskett when he retired from the U.S. Navy after 22 years. The company specializes in completely custom, hand-tailored suits in colors, fabrics, styles and sizes that aren’t available in retail stores, Haskett says. Though the suits are more costly than off-the-rack options from retail stores, the level of customization is worth the price for many loyal customers.
DESMOND’S ISLAND SOUL GRILL
The islands of the Caribbean Sea feature a colorful mix of influences from Africans, and Indigenous peoples and various colonizers. Shavonne Alexander’s restaurant, Desmond’s Island Soul Grill, features a vegan menu that celebrates that mélange with a special emphasis on influences from Guyana, which is on the north coast of South America and has more people who trace roots to India than anywhere else in the Caribbean. The resulting menu showcases a delicious assortment of curries, roti, dhal puri, lentil empanadas, arepas, plantains, callaloo, peas and rice, jerk barbecued jackfruit and a dish called Rasta Pasta – not surprising because no one knows vegetarian like Rastafarians do.
Owner-chef Tomeka Wallace works long hours creating delicious food for breakfast, brunch and lunch at Happy Cafe.She created her first Happy Cafe in 2016 in her hometown of Blackstone, Virginia, but the business has been in Virginia Beach since 2019. Wallace specializes in sandwiches with flavor combinations that are far from ordinary, including the Cook Breakfast Bagel with sausage, ham, pastrami, bacon, one fried egg and pepper-jack cheese; the Ultimate Club made with sourdough bread, Swiss, American and cheddar cheese, turkey, ham, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo; and the Cafe Roast of shredded chuck roast beef, French onion and Havarti cheese on a ciabatta bun.
J&K STYLE GRILL
J&K Style Grill has a teenage CEO, Keona Dooley, who has been working with ownership there since she was 9 –when she wasn’t in school, of course. Her military veteran parents, Kelvin and Latonya Dooley, opened the business in 2015, and it now has two Virginia Beach locations, as well as food trucks and a catering service. J&K is famous for its wings and egg rolls, but perhaps its main claim to fame (other than its youthful boss) is the waffle burger – a 6-ounce patty between two Belgian waffles made in house with a special-blend batter and sauce, plus bacon, grilled onions and a fried egg.
Chris Simmonds has big hopes for a big “neighborhood” – the Earth. His goals are to help people find sustainable alternatives to common goods, encourage a shift away from single-use items and plastic and to generally make it possible to create less waste. He opened <Less Than online in 2020 and a brick-and-mortar location within months, despite the pandemic. Simmonds sells hundreds of sustainable, healthy alternatives to everyday goods – eco-friendly products made from natural ingredients. The products come either without packaging – people bring in and refill containers – or in packaging that is recycled, recyclable, compostable and/or biodegradable. He credits his interest to growing up in a household that had to be careful with everything it used. “I’ve always been mindful about my impact on the world around me,” he says.
The refill stations, which are at half of his eight stores, offer both dry and liquid goods such as shampoo and conditioner, hand and dish soap, face and body lotion, laundry detergent, toothpaste tablets and candle refills. Customers bring their own containers, weigh them, fill them, re-weigh them and pay by the ounce. The <Less Than Virginia Beach store is in a booth at the Painted Tree Boutiques.
MONTEGO ISLAND GRILL
The father-daughter team of Randy and Danyelle Nurse owns and operates Montego Island Grill, which has been serving great Caribbean dishes in Virginia Beach since 1997. Randy Nurse is from Barbados, and he bought the restaurant 22 years ago from Jamaican friends. “We felt it was best to continue to build on what was already there and add to it,” says Danyelle Nurse, who was born in the U.S. The grill’s authentic Caribbean dishes include patties (handheld pastries stuffed with meat), jerk chicken, stewed oxtail, curry goat, ackee and saltfish, whole red snapper prepared fried, steamed, in a brown stew, or in the Jamaican escoveitch style, in which fish is fried, then marinated. In a nod to the Caribbean’s influences from India, the grill also offers roti – chicken, goat, shrimp and veggie curry wrapped in the bread from India.
PHILLY COLD CUTS
Navy Chief George Fuller and his wife, Louise, first started making and selling sandwiches in a small way to workers at the Oceana Naval Station. The sandwiches proved popular enough that by the time George Fuller retired in 1980 after 26 years in uniform, he’d bought a restaurant called Philadelphia Cold Cuts, which he and the Fullers’ four sons have operated as Philly Cold Cuts. Although three of the four sons went on to work elsewhere, all four are again involved in the operation of two restaurants. Philly cheesesteaks are their forte, but the menu also includes hoagies, regular sandwiches and even burgers, along with sides and salads.
Smoothie Stop Café
Smoothie Stop offers a huge lineup of healthy, fresh options. This family-owned business was inspired by one of the owners 105-year-old grandmother, and that love is present in every sip. With healthy smoothies, cold pressed juices, detox plans, and wraps and salads, Smoothie Stop is as good as it is for you.
About Our Writer
Terry Galvin was 6 when he got his first boat, an 8-foot aluminum johnboat with oars. His family lived in a house on the water and soon, he was driving the family power boat, water skiing and learning to race sailboats. When he wasn’t boating, Terry was reading, a behavior that later lead to a career as a newspaper writer and editor. He was working for the Virgin Islands Daily News when Terry met his wife of 30 years, who shares his love of the water and humors his need to hunt down locally owned restaurants wherever they go.