An experienced soul food restaurateur and caterer, with generations of love for soul food to draw from, Dara wanted to, not only rollout crave-worthy soul food, but she also wanted to be more intentional about providing a wide variety of excellent options for those who are vegan and vegan-curious.
Marrying the two ideas, Dara got to work on a best of both worlds for concept! After identifying a former 150+ seat, vacant restaurant space off I-85, exit 21 - 501 Cox Road, Gastonia NC, Dara, contractors, family and friends got to work!
With a classic soul food menu ready to go, Dara invested time and effort inquiring with vegan chefs; eventually engaging the consultative services of plant-based, nutrition certified chef and clinically endorsed vegan cookbook author (Dawn Hilton-Williams), to ensure that she and her staff would be creating a mix of both comforting and nourishing, flavorful vegan options.
From working with food reps, vegan menu development and related plating and costing to back of house vegan recipe training and understanding the necessity of ensuring the use of separate fryers, cooking surfaces, prep spaces and more, Dara and Team EJ's was well on their way to welcoming vegans in a meaningful and intentional way.
Named after Dara's son Elijah Jace, EJ's Soul Food and Vegan Restaurant is a place that says welcome home from the moment you walk in until the moment you leave; offering the best of both worlds for the community!
Opening May 2023!
A Word From Dara J. Bess
Founder/Owner of EJ's Soul Food and Vegan Restaurant
Winston Salem State University Grad | Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Mom, Foster Mom & Pet Mom | Member-Gastonia Chamber of Commerce
"Warm, safe, comforting and diverse, EJ's is who I am. My passion and love for people, food and community is the life force of this brand and my hope is that each time you join us here, you feel the comfort of home."