The 2024 NBA All-Star Weekend is attracting thousands of visitors to Indianapolis, including a few celebrities and renowned TikTok food reviewer Keith Lee.
Those visitors are bound to be hungry, so in honor of Black History Month, the Recorder put together a short list of Black-owned restaurants and food vendors our staff recommends trying during All-Star Weekend (and year-round).
Black Leaf Vegan Café (V)
335 W. 9th St.
Holding the title of Indiana’s first vegan food truck, Black Leaf Vegan Café is a community staple, serving customers and frequenting festivals and fairs year-round. Owned and operated by Derrick and Taria Slack and their three daughters, Black Leaf Vegan offers an extensive menu of vegan soul food and burgers, breakfast foods and comfort dishes, such as nachos and mac and cheese.
The Canal Walk, 335 W. 9th St., Suite D.
Committed to offering the community a variety of accessible, vegan comfort foods, owners Kadeesha and Antoine Wiggins first opened Burgeezy as a test kitchen in 2021 before opening their own brick-and-mortar on the Canal Walk in September 2023. The vegan burger joint specializes in dairy-, meat- and egg-free burgers and sandwiches, such as Crispy Chick’n Sandwiches, Fishhh Fillets, Double BBQ Bacon burgers and more.
The Cheesecake Lady
Butler-Tarkington, 305 W. 42nd St.
The Cheesecake Lady, also known as Cassie Smith-Johnson, quickly became one of Indy’s go-to dessert spots after starting her business from home in 2020. With a wide variety of flavors — from Strawberry Crunch to banana pudding, cookies ‘n cream and peach cobbler — The Cheesecake Lady’s specialty desserts can be found in 25 locations around the city, including her own storefront in Butler-Tarkington.
Chef Oya’s THE TRAP
3355 N. Keystone Ave.
Chef Oya Woodruff has been serving Indianapolis residents with her special twist on Florida-style seafood since 2016. With a walk-up restaurant off of Keystone, THE TRAP offers a variety of crab legs, salmon, shrimp and crawfish with Oya’s housemade blend of sauces and spices — including the Yaad Jerk sauce, which is a blend of fresh Jamaican spices, a house garlic butter sauce and the Extra Spicy Young Bae spice blend.
5308 N. Keystone Ave.
Specializing in scratch-made gourmet chicken, fries and specialty pasta dishes, Chicken Scratch came on the scene in 2020, when Tia Wilson and Zion Ferguson came together to open their first carry-out location on Keystone. Having now expanded with a location in Cincinnati, Ohio, Chicken Scratch features a selection of wings, fries and salads, with housemade sauces, seasonings and breadings.
Healthy Soul Meal Prep & Catering
The Amp at 16 Tech, 1220 Waterway Blvd.
This “globally-inspired eatery” focuses on creating Halal Afro-Asian hibachi style meals that are pesticide-free and organic. Tawana Gulley, the self-taught executive chef and owner of Healthy Soul, started her business as meal-prep and catering during the pandemic and now uses her restaurant to serve the community by partnering with TeenWorks, teaching youth basic culinary skills, financial literacy, customer service and food handling.
Kountry Kitchen Soul Food Place
1831 N. College Ave.
This soul food eatery has received mixed reviews since reopening in October 2022. The restaurant first opened in 1888 as a countertop diner that served homestyle cooking to the local neighborhood. Today, Kountry Kitchen is still dedicated to serving up the beloved comfort food recipes passed down through generations, such as fried green tomatoes, fried catfish, meatloaf sandwiches and collard greens.
Taste of Innova Wings + Greens
The Amp at 16 Tech, 1220 Waterway Blvd.
Mother-daughter duo Monique and Kara Hawkins, who started their business in June 2021, are now feeding the community out of The Amp at 16 Tech and Gainbridge Fieldhouse. In addition to collard greens with smoked turkey, chicken tender waffle sandwich and Innova mac and cheese, Taste of Innova features 12 original wing flavors, such as Italian Parm, African Pepper Zest, Savannah Heat, Island Jerk, Pan Asian Curry and Uncle Nearest Innova Chile.
Tea’s Me Cafe
Downtown, 140 E. 22nd St. B;
Butler Tarkington, 3967 N. Illinois St.;
Ivy Tech Community College, 2535 N. Capitol Ave., Bowen Commons
Serving organic, loose-leaf black, green, oolong, white and herbal tea blend sources from all over the world and cafe-style pastries, Tea’s Me Cafe is a staple for many Hoosiers. Owned by WNBA Hall-of-Famer Tamika Catchings, who took over the shop in 2017, the cafe has three locations around the city and sells five bottled flavors in grocery stores around the state.
TeeJay’s Sweet Tooth
8660 Purdue Road
Owned by licensed dental hygienists Taylor DeBruce and Jerome Tiah, TeeJay’s Sweet Tooth first opened in 2018. The ice cream shop carries a lineup of 16 custom-made ice cream flavors offered by the scoop, blended milkshakes or floats, and kids sizes. TeeJay’s also specializes in unique sweet treats, such as donut ice cream sandwiches, warm brownie sundaes and cotton candy burritos.
(V) Denotes vegan businesses.
Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.