By Sarah Thompson
When Tequanna Tyson was a little girl, she remembers her grandmother, a Southern woman, cooking all the time. Her meals were the epitome of good food. When her mother and grandmother began teaching her how to cook, she never dreamed she would one day have her very own restaurant.
During the onset of the COVID pandemic in 2020, Tyson was living in New York City. She decided to pack up and find a new place to call home that wasn’t being hit as hard by the pandemic, eventually making her way to Torrington, Connecticut. That’s when she discovered that there were very limited options when it came to soul food restaurants.
“I was baking and cooking in New York City and would do festivals and pop-up shops on the weekends, but I never thought about having a store. So, when I moved out to Connecticut two years ago, I was driving a bus,” she shared. “I thought, let me try to see how difficult it would be to open an actual restaurant here where we can have soul food because there is none in the area.”
Tyson was on a mission to bring something new and fresh to the area—a mission that didn’t always come easy. In early August 2021, she opened the doors to Tequanna’s Soul Food & Sweets.
“It’s very hard to open your own restaurant. Especially having to deal with all the permits and stuff I didn’t know about. It’s a lot of money,” she said.
“It makes me really happy because you can tell is someone is really enjoying your food. It makes me feel really good and want to stay here and keep going.”
Plus, Tyson’s commitment to serving only the best food is one that comes with a lot of dedication and hard work.
“Everything is actually home-cooked, from cleaning the chicken, seasoning the chicken, everything,” she explained. “Nothing we serve is off a delivery truck and you just heat it up and it is ready. Nothing is pre-made.”
While her mother helps Tyson every other weekend with cooking for the restaurant, most days she’s on her own.
“It’s challenging because right now me and my mom are the only cooks,” she shared. “I have another job. I usually go cook every morning and then by noon my employees come in and we have everything set out on tables.”
She’s doing something right by bringing a great new option to the area. Tyson’s menu includes the best of soul food—BBQ ribs, pork chops, black-eyed peas, collard greens, mac and cheese, fried chicken and so much more.
“Everybody likes the food,” said Tyson. “It makes me really happy because you can tell is someone is really enjoying your food. It makes me feel really good and want to stay here and keep going.”
Her specialties also include desserts and sweets, like banana pudding, and she creates custom-made wedding cakes. Tyson also offers catering, and her restaurant has a bar with special drinks.
As the only female, Black-owned restaurant in Torrington, she’s faced some unique challenges, but those obstacles are what keeps her motivated.
“I keep going because of the people that said we wouldn’t make it out here because I’m a Black-owned business,” said Tyson. “Right now, I have so many people on my side—the mayor and everybody else—everybody just supports me a lot. So that helps me. They don’t make me feel like I’m not supposed to be here.”
And with roots setting in place for her restaurant in Torrington, Tyson is looking to expand her business.
“I’m working with other businesses to have a whole bunch of events and eventually some time in the future I do want to open another restaurant in New York,” she shared.
What started as a tradition in one family’s kitchen from generation to generation is now being shared for everyone to enjoy. What a delicious thing she’s done!
Tequanna's Soul Food & Sweets is located at 21 Main Street, Torrington, Connecticut and is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 12:00-7:00pm, Thursday-Saturday, 12:00-9:00pm and is closed on Sunday and Monday. Learn more on their Facebook page, website or by calling (646) 956-0221. Veterans receive a discount every Wednesday.
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* Food photos courtesy of Tequanna's Soul Food & Sweets