HOUSTON, TX – April 11, 2023 – While doors to opportunity didn’t always open easily for Houston-based entrepreneurs April Gooden and Chef Dawn Sloan, their current trajectory is a manifestation of the ones that have. After running into each other at a conference a year ago, the pair began strategizing a revival and expansion of Sloan’s beloved Soul Taco culinary concept, which began as a food truck and later moved as a pop up in collaboration with Throughgood Coffee, the Shady Acres mainstay that closed unexpectedly late last summer.
Slated to debut this August, Soul Taco is now poised as a one-of-a-kind anchor for The Common, a 38,000-square-foot Opportunity Zone retail center at 1102 Pinemont Drive that was recently reimagined by Houston-based Gulf Coast Commercial Group. The 2,700-square-foot dining room will not only serve as the flagship, brick and mortar site for a daytime-focused brand that is already planning secondary locations, but also the backdrop for a supper club showcasing the breadth of Sloan’s training.
While her culinary career may have gotten off to a late start given a condition that rendered her blind for several months – followed by a year of surgeries to regain partial eyesight – she’s accumulated a world of experience with kitchen appointments at some of the most celebrated restaurants around the globe, since graduating from Le Cordon Bleu at age 39. They include 1 Star Michelin La Folie in San Francisco and 3 Star Michelin Azurmendi in Larrabetzu, Spain, where she spent nearly a year as chef de partie before coming home to Houston for a sabbatical that never ended. Passionate about discovering new places and flavors, “The Roaming Chef” has also worked in France, Turkey, Ireland and Italy. Dawn continues to travel internationally whenever she can.
“We’re so appreciative of Gulf Coast Commercial Group’s support in making the progression of Soul Taco a reality. They first approached me about The Common nearly three years ago, but the timing just wasn’t right in terms traction in this neighborhood and without a partner like April, who I respect so much given her acumen, ethics and drive.”
Gooden added, “As longtime residents of the area, we are confident that the soulful heart and vibe of this concept will resonate beautifully at this eclectic crossroads of surrounding neighborhoods, including Garden Oaks, Oak Forest and Acres Homes, and we look forward to becoming a gathering place for this vibrant and growing community. In addition to being thankful to collaborate with someone as talented as Dawn, I’m so grateful for the unconditional love and support of my partner and husband Kennersen Gooden as we embark on this new adventure.”
Launched in 2017, Soul Taco dared to be different from its inception. The goal was to take a regionally familiar cuisine – Tex-Mex and more specifically breakfast tacos – and give it a completely different twist using techniques and flavors Sloan adopted – and adapted – from her grandmothers. Those special women, who also found their professional calling and livelihood in the kitchen, were considered cooks rather than chefs in that era given social and gender inequality.
“The rich culture of soul food has been instrumental in the evolution of American cuisine,” according to Sloan. “Soul Taco is an homage to my family heritage and a reflection of my own transformation through the process of becoming a chef.”
Also important to the chef is her ability to create culinary opportunities for other women hoping to break into the culinary world, given that the playing field is still not level.
Soul Taco will be located immediately adjacent to The Common’s namesake, central common space, which is framed by the Sugar & Cloth Color Wall, a mural installation incorporating a specially curated palette of hues that represents the beauty of human diversity, and at the same time, the synergy of people’s spectrum.
Future guests can anticipate a simple, warm and inviting space punctuated with its own mural, created by a friend at HGTV. A focus on local products begins with Three Keys Coffee, paired with a variety of house made syrups. On the food front, in addition to the signature tacos named after classic soul singers and songs Sloan grew up listening to, diners will enjoy an assortment of pastries, biscuits, quiches, scones and breads – most baked in house – incorporating ingredients from vendors like Houston Dairymaids. The kitchen will also turn out an array of salads, and holiday to go feasts each November and December.
Once open, Soul Taco will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 7 am until 3 pm and will also be available for special events after hours. Brunch will be featured both Saturday and Sunday.
Founded in 1999, Gulf Coast Commercial Group and its affiliates have overseen the development of more than eight million square feet of retail space in twelve states. While it has historically grown through new development projects, in recent years, the company has expanded its portfolio with quality shopping centers, such as Baybrook Passage, where it can add value.
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