FARGO-There's plenty of industrial character in Fargo's first soul food restaurant.
The former Border Cities Service shop, 30 N. University Drive, boasts signs of its mechanical past, including concrete floors and two large garage doors, even after a renovation of the building that's stood there since 1948.
But Darrell Randle sees potential for a cozy eatery where a fruit bowl will greet patrons and people can gather to play dominoes or catch up.
"I want this to feel like my home," he said.
Randle and his wife, Celena Randle, opened Daran's Southern Soul Food on Saturday, Oct. 21, something they've worked toward since moving to Fargo in late 2011.
The restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, serving up soul food favorites in addition to West Indian cuisine based on the culinary inspirations of the Randles, who have family hailing from Mississippi, North Carolina and the South American nation of Guyana.
Most in the community got a first taste of the owners' soul food late last year when the couple started cooking out of Fargo commercial kitchen facility Square One, 1407 1st Ave. N.
They earned rave reviews, including Twitter love from hip-hop trio Salt-N-Pepa that got Daran's while they were here for a concert last November. Randle said he plans to enlarge a shot of that tweet to add to a "wall of inspiration" that will also include photos of family in the tow shop's former reception area.
The couple stopped working at Square One earlier this year to prepare for their own restaurant. But their work to get to this point started much earlier.
Darrell Randle worked catering jobs for a while, making food for out-of-town workers who helped staff American Crystal Sugar Co. during a 2012 lockout, in between gigs for other companies.
He has restaurant experience on his resume, though he lacks a formal culinary education. Instead, he learned to perfect his dishes through trial and error, not to mention constructive criticism from his grandmother-in-law when he made fried chicken for her in 2011.
"She told me my chicken was as black as Wesley Snipes," he said with a chuckle, adding his chicken is much better now.
Development company 701 Collective, a partnership between Jade Nielsen and Ian Johnson, bought the building earlier this year and oversaw a total renovation to get it ready that installed new garage doors with screens and replaced metal sheets on a curved corner with new windows.
Most patrons will eat in the dining room with room for 60 or so that replaced the former garage.
It was 701 Collective that asked Randle if he wanted to lease this building. He admitted he was a bit "skeptical" at first, and wondered how they'd make it work.
"After seeing these guys put the work into it and get it looking like this, I feel like I can make it my own," he said.
He'll get some help from his wife, as well as several relatives coming to town to help him run things until he hires a staff.
He'd like to grow Daran's, and he could open a second location in Grand Forks within a year or two. A Minneapolis location could be in the works, too.
But Randle said he'll make sure the restaurant stays true to his vision of consistently good, unique food, and he'd rather shut it down than tarnish his family's name. Daran's gets its name from the first initials of the couple's five kids.
He said it's "unreal" to make his dream of a restaurant a reality, something he said happened when Nielsen put his trust in the couple.
"It's him believing in us," he said. "That pretty much propelled us to be doing what we wanted to do."
What: Daran's Southern Soul Food
Where: 30 N. University Drive, Fargo
Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Phone: (701) 566-8792