Offering a bit of comfort food in an uneasy time
Local businesswoman Allena Dancer, owner of The Peach Eatery pop-up restaurant, inherited her cooking skills from her mother who died in 2000. Around that time, she carried on her mother’s soul food legacy, and several years later, The Peach Eatery concept came to fruition.
Dancer is from Iowa, but grew up in St. Paul. She graduated from Northwestern Bible College and earned a degree at the Culinary Arts Institute in Minneapolis.
Although she worked hard to earn her degrees and is well-versed in culinary arts, she
learned how to cook from her family. Her dad is from Arkansas and her mother is from Mississippi.
That Southern influence is prevalent and magnified throughout her flavorful food.
“I’ve always been told I should cook. One day I was cooking for my pastor,” Dancer recalled. She initially asked the First Lady at her church about the business and what the name should be. It’s been Peach Eatery ever since. “[The Pastor and First Lady] would encourage me to keep going. It built my skills and I got better,” said Dancer.
Dancer’s unique pop-up restaurant is known for its mouthwatering peach cobbler. She said, “We have a signature peach tea and a hint of peach in barbecue sauce.” The eatery also offers an array of Southern dishes that range from $10-$25 in price.
Customers have a wide variety of options, from freshly fried chicken, baked chicken, and smothered chicken. Smoked turkey legs are available on occasion. Every meal comes with a dinner roll, and patrons can also order sides mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, cabbage, red beans and rice, and more.
The eatery recently introduced a new item on the menu: “My husband came up with the brisket grilled cheese,” said Dancer. To their surprise, it’s becoming very popular. “Customers have been requesting it almost every day,” she noted.
Dancer recently expanded her territory. The Peach Eatery pop up restaurant is also located at the Mall of America’s Community Commons. At this location, there’s a limited menu. Only peach cobbler and pound cakes are available.
In business there are ups and downs, but Dancer has been powered by resiliency and faith.
She cited one challenge as “Time. There seems to never be enough time,” she said.
She noted that an up-side to being a business owner is witnessing customer satisfaction and being able to serve as a positive role model for her daughter. “[There’s] gratification that I’m working for myself. I can leave a legacy for my children. My daughter is proud.” The business is essentially geared toward creating generational wealth.
When asked about the importance of supporting local Black-owned businesses she said, “A lot of them are small. Word-of-mouth is the best advertisement.”
Customers continue to show their support for Peach Eatery while adhering to COVID-19 protocol. Dancer explained that the pop-up restaurant is the first stop for some since the pandemic began. She recalled the first visit from a customer who tried the peach cobbler. “He was nervous at first but still came out to enjoy every bite,” said Dancer.
There have been setbacks. “We were supposed to start this months ago,” said Dancer. “We were grateful we didn’t lose our job. We’ve been really blessed in that.”
To conclude, she offered this advice for the youth: “Whatever you do, you should be excellent at it. Once you get your time management down, everything is good.”
Overall, the Peach Eatery restaurant is serving up comfort food at a time when many people could use it. Customer satisfaction is how Dancer best gauges success. “Just the love of people— seeing people’s faces.”
The Peach Eatery is located at 1124 Payne Avenue in St. Paul. The shop is open Thursday -Friday from 4 to 9 pm and Saturdays from 12 to 7 pm. The Mall of America’s Community Commons location is open Monday-Wednesday, from 11 am to 7 pm, Thursday- Saturday, from 10 am to 8 pm, and Sundays 11 am to 7 pm.
For more info, visit www.facebook.com/thepeacheatery or call 612-547-9665.
Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder.