Family puts heart (and soul) into new restaurant in Cheswold

Jamar Thorner and his family have opened Jazzy Jay’s Soul Food Cafe on U.S. 13 in Cheswold. The restaurant brings a variety of flavors to its menu including Caribbean, American, Italian, soul food and country cooking. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Jamar Thorner and his family have opened Jazzy Jay’s Soul Food Cafe on U.S. 13 in Cheswold. The restaurant brings a variety of flavors to its menu including Caribbean, American, Italian, soul food and country cooking. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

CHESWOLD — Soul food is a cuisine whose origins can be traced back to Africa and has long been embraced and consumed by the African-American community.

However, that doesn’t mean that everybody can’t enjoy the food, which is one of the reasons why Jamar Thorner and his family have opened Jazzy Jay’s Soul Food Café at 5409 N. DuPont Highway (U.S. 13) north of Dover.

Don’t be surprised to smell enticing aromas coming from the kitchen and hearing lively music coming through the speakers at Jazzy Jay’s Soul Food Café while waiting for your order to arrive.

There’s a feeling of family at the restaurant — and for good reason, since a total of seven family members and friends help keep the place hopping.

“We just like to have people sit down and eat their meals and listen to some good music,” Mr. Thorner said. “It’s just a little different vibe here. Some people come in here and just start dancing when they’re placing their order. It’s OK.

“Our big sellers so far have been the turkey wings, mac-and-cheese, the collard greens, beef roast … we’ve got a lot of good things on the menu that’s cooked like your grandma would’ve made it.”

Mr. Thorner’s family moved to Dover from New York City about 15 years ago. They previously established family businesses in the clothing market and novelties, but then they finally realized that other people have always raved about their cooking.

Mr. Thornton said opening a restaurant was a natural fit considering he had served as a cook at the Eight-O-One shelter in downtown Dover, worked in the Dover Downs kitchen and other restaurants around town.

But now it’s all about family — and soul food, where the dishes primarily consist of cuisine from the American south, but the menu can vary.

“We’ve got a wide selection,” said Mr. Thorner. “I know there’s a lot of foods that we can cover. What we try to do here is give different varieties of food, whether it’s Caribbean, American, Italian, soul food, country cooking — we bring all of these under one umbrella and hopefully you can find something here for your belly.”

While a menu of mainstays is currently being printed at Windswept Enterprises, there will always be a board made just for daily specials and different offerings.

The special on Saturday was pig’s feet.

“My cook’s from Florida,” Mr. Thorner said. “I’m not country, but he’s got the whole country accent and home-cooking thing going on. He’s trying to bring in alligator, frog legs, just something different.

“There’s always something different going on here … You might see goose head, I don’t know. As long as he says he can cook it and I sample it and it’s good and the public likes it, why not?”

Not to worry, there’s always plenty of more familiar options from which to choose from, such as chicken wings, ribs, beef and fish.

“When people come in I don’t want to hear them going, ‘You don’t have pork?’ or ‘You don’t have beef?,’” Mr. Thorner said. “We’ve got all that and we think that’s the best way to try and please the public.”

Mr. Thorner had an explanation for why soul food is different from other foods.

“Soul food is really about cooking and just putting your all into it,” he said. “If you cook with the love, the food will taste great.

“We don’t rush anything. Everything is prepped. Everything is fresh. All of our ingredients are fresh and homemade.”

So far, reviews have been overwhelmingly positive since the restaurant recently opened its doors.

“The response has been great,” Mr. Thornton said. “I thank the community for giving us the opportunity to try our food and hope they give us a good honest opinion of it. So far the feedback has been about 95 to 98 percent good.”

That’s not too bad for a new family-owned restaurant.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.