By Melanie Romero
In Orange County, the business sphere has, for decades, been a foundation of its own radical history—countering white, wealthy, and conservative. Although not new to the region, Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) businesses have evolved with a new generation of foodie entrepreneurs creating names for themselves across trends and categories. These mindful owners have gone out of their way to launch a business from the ground up, and also open doors for patrons to learn about investing in their inclusive endeavors and our diverse local community.
Able Coffee Roasters (Fullerton)
Owned and managed by Anthony Palmeri & Adeel Asif, who worked in special education prior to founding the coffee roasting company, Able Coffee Roasters employs individuals with disabilities. Here, they’re brewing more than just coffee; they’re brewing inclusivity and community! Stepping inside the blue-hued storefront, the establishment resembles a typical coffee shop: burlap sacks of coffee on exhibit, a glass display of enviable pastries & desserts, an amalgamation of students and workers hunched over their laptops while on the WiFi. But, the most spectacular sight is witnessing Able’s employees doing more than just taking orders; they’re preparing coffee, replenishing the beans, greeting with a smile. It’s a pleasure to see how our community comes together at Able to support a labor force that is often excluded from the conversation.
Beale’s Texas BBQ (Huntington Beach)
Beale’s Texas BBQ is the one of Orange County’s only remaining Black-owned restaurants that, as its name states, cooks what it knows best: BBQ. Surprisingly, Brett Beale, the owner of Beale’s Texas BBQ, wasn’t born and raised in Texas; he’s a Santa Ana native. Growing up with a single mother, he watched her cook from the sidelines, and those childhood memories turned into a passion for the grill. Once only a backyard griller, he turned to Bill Cannon, the president of the Texas BBQ Rub. It seems as if Beale’s investment with Cannon proved successful as he’s now grown Beale’s Texas BBQ into a local hotspot – not to mention, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prepare to get your hands on 24-hour smoked brisket, hot links, pulled pork, and chicken!
Overflo (Buena Park)
Located at The Source, Overflo boasts a reputation for soft serve, cream pancakes, and gelato-topped waffles. If your sweet tooth is feeling extra sweet, add on some toppings: caramel drizzle, strawberry sauce, red bean, Oreos, nutella, and tiramisu to name a few. And, as if Overflo could get any sweeter, a portion of their sales will be donated to help children in need; as a partner of the Good Neighbors Project, their aim is to help bring good changes to the world, which includes providing support for underfed children in vulnerable places. So, do yourself a favor and satisfy your sweet tooth; Overflo’s mission is as sweet as its menu.
Hola Adios Coffee (Tustin)
With roots from Chihuahua, Mexico, this coffee shop sources coffee from North, Central, and South America, as well as Africa, making a coffee culture come to life from the aromas of Latinx and Black communities. The shop mentions how Spanish words have become so ingrained in our Californian culture; “we live on streets called El Camino Real, have schools named Estancia and call towns like Costa Mesa home.” We’ve become so acquainted with the Spanish language that Hola Adios chose its name based on the friendly greeting of hola and the bittersweet sendoff of adios. But, at Hola Adios, with its for-purchase Colombian coffee beans, colorfully hand-painted piano, and inviting breakfast burritos, this coffee shop is by the people, for the people, and there’s not really an adios, but rather an hasta luego. You’ll always come back here for your next latte, your next cinnamon roll. Not to forget, their iced chai is the perfect blend of spices and milk!
On Chapman Avenue, hidden from the hustle and bustle of Old Towne Orange, there exists La Vecindad Mexican Boutique. With its rosa mexicano storefront, La Vecindad invites locals to a little piece of Mexico, all without ever leaving Orange. Take a photo against the wall of flower-painted piggy banks or sneak a peek at the hand-woven purses in a colorful array! In case you might be in need of a recharge, treat yourself to a themed drink at the in-store conchas & coffee pop-up of Cafe Cordova, all the way from FlanChata iced coffee and cafe de la olla cold brea to mazapan vanilla bean lattes and churro iced coffee (with cajeta drizzle). Carry a piece of Mexico in your newly-bought purse or in your coffee drink!
Morika’s Southern Delights (Laguna Hills)
Are you in search of a dessert caterer in Orange County? If so, look no further than Morika’s Southern Delights! This Black-owned, Southern-raised catering company specializes in baking homemade Southern pies, cakes, cobblers, and even candies. Baked with lots of love and from scratch, using only the finest natural ingredients available, you’ll be sure to support this top-tier baker in creating desserts reminiscent of home (and just like Grandma used to make it!). Sweet potato pie continues to remain their biggest seller. But, in case that’s not your only craving, take a bit of the southern pineapple coconut cake or feast on the Louisiana crunch cake (a Southern classic) or perhaps sink teeth into the fresh blackberry cobbler. The owner’s grandmother Annie Ruth Lindsay, known as Mamma Ruth, is the inspiration behind Norma Stewart’s business and continues to inspire Norma’s catering company to reach new heights…and new bakes!
Soy Concha Bakery (Santa Ana)
Craving a concha, maybe a puerquito, perhaps chochitos? Well, it seems Soy Concha Bakery might be up your alley, and to make it better, all their pan dulce options are vegan! Brother-and-sister duo, Earvin and Kathy, are self-taught bakers specializing in all vegan treats. Their goal is to be able to “provide vegan options to underserved communities while remaining affordable for our raza.” Their items sell like hotcakes (pun intended), and their typical pan dulce is sold out by the afternoon. But, always a lover of seasons, the bakery tends to release themed items, like strawberry crunch tres leches cake for Valentine’s or Jack Skellington conchas for Halloween, to modernize its inventory, but keep their Mexican traditions intact. What better way to spread veganism to the community than one concha at a time?
Tribute Coffee (Garden Grove)
Black-owned Tribute Coffee wants its customers to feel welcome – like old friends, meeting for the first time, over a warm cup of joe. With a rich selection of all things drinks, Tribute has the typical lineup of drinks – espresso, americano, macchiato, cappuccino, latte – plus cold brew, iced drinks, blended drinks, and smoothies. But, coffee goes best with a pastry, right? They also have on hand a fresh selection of bakery delights, like bagels, scones, croissants, danishes, and muffins. Not to mention, they also boast a food menu, with breakfast, salad, and sandwiches. Choose between sitting in its small, but homely interior for a delicious made-to-order, sit-down coffee or cruise down the drive-through for a quick pick-me-up!
Orange County, in spite of its reputation and history, is abound with BIPOC businesses, and as members of this community, we are the gamechangers behind supporting the stability and success of these businesses. By committing to the entrepreneurship and ideas of these BIPOC owners, we not only create more employment opportunities and a more equitable distribution of wealth back to our communities, but we also invest in pride, unity, and self-determination. So, next time, instead of heading to a chain location for an iced coffee or stack of ribs, support one of the businesses above to ensure that traction continues to grow and that our investment is their catalyst.
Melanie Romero is a trilingual writer born and raised in Orange, CA. It was during childhood weekend trips to Randy’s $1-a-book stall at the OC Market Place that she discovered a passion for reading and, eventually, writing. Today, she serves as Editor at Lil’ Libros and has written two children’s books, Amor de colores and J is for Janucá under the publisher. In her free time, she can be found indulging in challah and getting lost among the shelves of independent bookstores.
#OffThePage is taking pitches via email and paying contributing writers. Our Arts & Culture column was initially founded by local journalist Gabriel San Román, who is now a featured writer at Times OC and a former OC Weekly staff writer. Subscribe to his weekly Slingshot! Newsletter. And in case anyone is wondering, he's still the tallest Mexican in OC.