Fargo couple opens North Dakota's first Southern soul food restaurant
FARGO—Darrell Randle knew the local food scene needed something when his former co-worker didn't know about grits, a Southern breakfast staple.
"I had to show him pictures of it," he said.
That's why the self-described "pioneer" and his wife are working to open North Dakota's first soul food restaurant and give the locals all the collard greens and uniquely seasoned chicken and meats they could want.
Randle, 31, grew up in Goulds, Fla., an area that he said was a melting pot of cultures and cuisines with food of all kinds. But when he and 29-year-old Celena Randle moved to Fargo in late 2011, they were struck by the "limited variety" on local menus, and now they're trying to address the problem with the Nov. 2 launch of Daran's Southern Soul Food and West Indian Cuisine.
The new venture is a two-person business with the Randles cooking, delivering meals and selling to-go orders from commercial kitchen facility Square One, 1407 1st Ave. N., but they have big growth plans for next year.
Both had experience working in fast food joints over the years, and they both liked to cook at home. Darrell's family hails from Mississippi, Celena said, while her mom's side is from the South American nation of Guyana and her father's side is from North Carolina, so they grew up with Southern and West Indian flavors.
The Randles' move to Fargo was driven by their desire to raise their family in a safer community, so it makes sense that the name of Daran's comes from the first initials of each of their five kids, who range in age from 10 months to 12 years.
"It's going to be theirs, so we decided to name it after them," Celena said.
Darrell said he never went to college, and Celena didn't finish college. They see the restaurant as a way to do something they care about while making their own economic opportunity.
He may not have formal training, but Darrell isn't lacking in ideas, and he's worked to drum up positive word-of-mouth by targeting possible fans on social media.
At first, that meant reaching out to the morning show crew of FM station Y94 and giving them their first taste of soul food for a Facebook video.
When the I Love the '90s tour brought the likes of Vanilla Ice and Tone Loc to Scheels Arena late last month, Darrell used Twitter to get in touch with artists he thought might appreciate his food.
He and Celena made a meal for hip-hop trio Salt-N-Pepa, and he ended up getting asked by Coolio at the hotel while delivering their meal to make him breakfast the next day.
His next target was North Dakota State University football players from out-of-state—Darrell figured they, too, were missing soul food up here—and that's helped him make connections.
"I don't sleep," he said. "I stay up till like 3:30 in the morning trying to always think of ways of how we can expand."
The couple is already working with a Realtor to find a space to open a full restaurant, and Darrell said they could be open in Fargo as early as March.
For now, Darrell and Celena post the next day's lunch menu most afternoons on the restaurant's Facebook page. They encourage customers to call and order ahead to schedule a time they'd like to pick up their meal at Square One, or they can arrange to have Darrell deliver it.
What: Daran's Southern Soul Food and West Indian Cuisine
Where: Square One commercial kitchen facility, 1407 1st Ave. N., Fargo
Hours (subject to change): 12:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Phone: (701) 200-8502