Juliette Propp, Contributing Photographer

A prominent activist in New Haven, De’Ari Allick, has been a force of social change in the Elm City. But he has also been a culinary force of soulful goodness with his restaurant, Dope N Delicious, located at 300 Dixwell Ave.

Born and raised in New Haven, Allick says he has always been connected to his home community. He found his calling in activism, striving to make a positive impact on the lives of those around him. His journey as an activist began following the murder of his brother in 2011, who died in one of 32 reported homicides in New Haven that year. Since his brother’s death, Allick has helped organize “Stop the Violence” basketball tournaments, summer and afterschool programs, rallies and other community events. Allick has fought to reduce violence within the New Haven community. In tandem with his activism, Allick decided to channel his love for food and cooking into a business. 

“Dope N Delicious is a family business that provides soul food and seafood. We just tried to bring a unique taste to the urban community and give them a glimpse of high-quality flavors,” Allick said. “I feel like I come here and it’s not just work, it’s more so coming here and creating something that people love, and I have the satisfying feeling of seeing others satisfied.”

The restaurant is a family affair. Allick and his daughter began their business venture in 2019, making and selling food out of their house.

After some initial success, Allick opened up his first location in Bridgeport, and soon after, he joined forces with partners Kiwa Bolden and James Nelson. Together, the three brought Dope N Delicious to New Haven.

“De’Ari and I have always worked together, and we’ve always had business minds,” Bolden said. “He made me a chef. I learned how to cook from him.” 

When it comes to the kitchen, everyone helps out, but head chefs Allick and his daughter, Deari’e, run the show. Their fan-favorite dishes are steak and cheese egg rolls and shrimp and steak over rice.

In addition to the food, Bolden appreciates the sense of togetherness that the restaurant cultivates, bringing together old friends and community members that he has not seen in years.  

Sean Reeves, a long-time friend of Allick and a regular at Dope N Delicious, first met Allick in 2011 during work on a Stop the Violence campaign and has been a patron at the restaurant since its opening in 2020.

“I came here and had a meal, and I’ve been coming back ever since,” Reeves said. “This area is considered a food desert, we don’t have a lot of good spaces to come and get a complete meal, so this place is very valuable to the community.” 

In a world where activism and entrepreneurship often exist in separate spheres, Allick and his partners stand as a bridge between the two.

They aim to use their business as a powerful tool for social change. 

“We try to keep everything in the neighborhood,” Allick said. “It best suits us to keep the dollar within the community.”

Allick and his partners are now exploring new ways to give back as business owners. 

Next summer, they hope to start a youth culinary program covering agriculture, culinary arts and financial literacy. They hope to spread their knowledge to young people in their community, teaching them important life skills.

Food is a passion that Allick’s mother passed down to him, and now he gets to pass it to his daughter.

“I want to see this business grow into something bigger than me,” Allick said. “And my daughter would take it on and then her vision would come to life.”  

Allick and Bolden shared their hopes of expanding their business beyond the walls of the Dixwell location. 

They hope to bring Dope N Delicious to other states and cities. They are also setting their sights on a food truck, making their food more accessible to Yale students. 

“If we had a bigger space, more people could sit down and have that 10-to-15-minute grace period. Everybody wants their food fast, but we are trying to get people to understand that everything we make, we make it fresh here,” Bolden said. 

Dope N Delicious is currently available at their Dixwell location and over DoorDash.