Harford Magazine

Dakari’s Soul Food dishes out Southern and Caribbean-style food, while keeping son’s memory alive in Harford County

After almost three years in business, Dakari’s Soul Food has made a name for itself as a go-to restaurant for delicious Southern and Caribbean inspired cuisine in Harford County. However, the family-owned restaurant’s success lies not only in happy customers, but in continuing a legacy.

From left: Salima Muhammad, Omar Vanriel, Shalema Brooks, Robert Brooks and Shavon Liggins all stand together for a portrait at Dakari’s Soul Food on Friday, April 15.

“Dakari forever,” said Kyrin Cox, the restaurant owners’ son, who is also a chef there.

Cox wasn’t solely referring to the restaurant, but also his brother, Dakari Milton Moses Brooks, who died in September 2019, just a month before the restaurant opened its doors.


Owners Shalema and Robert Brooks worked on opening a restaurant for years before the death of their son.

“My husband and I were planning to open a restaurant over five years before we officially opened. We saved every extra penny. The week before our son passed, my husband came across our first location,” said Shalema. “On the day of our son’s repast, we received word we were approved for the building and changed the legal name to Dakari’s Soul Food.”

“We feel like although our son is gone, his legacy lives on,” Shalema continued. “We were able to grieve through building something in honor of him.”

Shalema and Robert Brooks, co-owners of Dakari’s Soul Food, sit together holding a large photo of their late son, Dakari, for whom their restaurant is named.

From the popping playlist that transports patrons from the establishment to a soulful cookout, to the large helping of food prepared by Cox and Jamaican-born Omar Vanriel, the Caribbean specialist, Dakari’s Soul Food has flourished from an idea to a reliable restaurant for delicious fare.

“I’m here to get some good food. I’ve actually frequented here twice before. I stumbled upon it, and when I came in, the staff was very welcoming. It had a very good vibe and the food was amazing,” said Army Staff Sgt. Jovon Lewis.

“I had a cheesesteak the first time, which was really, really good,” said Lewis, who was returning for another taste of the cheesesteak. “I did try some of the soul food the second time around and that was really good, too. The cornbread was amazing.”

Other customer favorites include the stuffed salmon, macaroni and cheese, oxtail, “Momma’s Jazzy Wings,” and the lump crab cake, a dish that, according to Lewis, brought diners all the way from New Jersey the last time he visited.

Robert Brooks, co-owner and executive chef at Dakari’s Soul Food, plates an order of Momma’s Jazzy Wings on Friday, April 15.

Black-owned and operated, Dakari’s Soul Food offers food rooted in the Black diaspora in a country that is still predominantly white.

“It’s good to see professional people that look like you,” said Lewis, who is Black.

However, Dakari’s diverse patrons show that the rich, soulful food options are for everyone. The priority at Dakari’s Soul Food is making all their customers feel at home and happy.

“It’s a great family atmosphere. It leaves you thinking you just left your grandma’s kitchen,” Brooks emphasized.

The Brookses are currently planning on offering blue crabs this summer and expanding the restaurant to other states.


Dakari’s Soul Food

300 Edgewood Road, Edgewood, 410-702-9828,