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Dialo’s Café celebrates Black History Month by serving up a history lesson with meals

NOW: Dialo’s Café celebrates Black History Month by serving up a history lesson with meals

BENTON HARBOR, Mich.—Dialo’s Café owner and chef Lashunn Harper grew up hunting and fishing in Berrien County.

“We had hunting dogs, beagles and coonhounds. We always kind of, got our meals out of the garden, growing up. Even during breakfast everybody had their little jobs, if you were old enough, someone maybe did the toast, someone did the eggs,” Harper said. “We grew up on a lot of the fat of the land.”

Harper learned to cook by watching his grandmother and while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“At the time I joined the marine corps, I just graduated from John Adams High School and there wasn’t a whole lot going on. I had a lot of friends of mine, some people I hung with, they were getting into a lot of trouble and I needed to get away,” Harper said.

The chef returned from the marines in 1996 to help his father with the family catering business.

“He got a booth in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. That’s what kind of kicked a lot of things off,” Harper said.

The pair sold barbecue at the ’96 Games and returned to Michiana to grow the catering business.

Harper worked in several area restaurants, including as a sous chef at a Michigan country club, and ran his original café downtown before opening Dialo’s Café at 1924 M-139 in March of 2016.

Since then, Harper has been cooking up his locally famous cuisine for the Benton Harbor community.

“We offer a southern cuisine menu. We do authentic soul food and we also offer those more down home cooked meals. We have fried chicken, barbecue chicken, beef brisket, we do a pulled pork taco, we do catfish po’boys,” Harper said. And the list goes on.

To celebrate Black History Month, Harper and his staff decorated the restaurant with photos of prominent people with local connections so that when diners come in, they get a bit of a history lesson with their meal.

“For me, Black History Month is about getting knowledge, for how a lot of black people have paved the way for me and struggled to achieve what they did,” Harper said. “If they can do it, I can do it.”

The photos, including those of Sinbad, Ernie Hudson, and more, will remain up all year, Harper said.

Harper’s restaurant offers a full menu and catering options. Dialo’s Café also works in the community, each year providing catered meals at events for local students who do well academically during their school year.

Dialo’s Café is also growing. The restaurant has added a breakfast menu, which they will serve Tuesday through Sunday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The breakfast offerings will include rice and eggs, which Harper describes as a little brown rice scrambled with green onions and eggs, accompanied with sausage or bacon and toast. They will also offer salmon croquettes, chicken and waffles grilled or fried and house made turkey sausage used for biscuits and gravy.

To celebrate Black History Month, ABC57 is highlighting business leaders in Michiana every Friday during the month of February.

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