by Zaire Saunders
Moving to the Bay Area, I missed the taste of soul food. The savory taste of macaroni and cheese, a crunchy bite of fried chicken. To wash my throat down, a cooling cup of sweet tea.
I was thankful to have my fill of food when I was given the chance to taste what’s on the menu at Scends.
Immediately when you walk in, you’ve entered history. Familiar Black icons hang on the walls, and the atmosphere is cozy and comfortable. The kindness of the staff also gave off the impression of home, which is what I was expecting from a historic Black business.
“Sometimes things are in your blood. My family ran it,” said Emery “Dion” Nickelson, owner of Scends. “ I cook, hire, fire and market the restaurant all in the name of self employment.” During the duration of my visit, Dion managed his crew, chatted with a few familiar faces and ensured high quality food and service.
Like moths to a flame, each new face who walked in was drawn toward the array of treats spread out on a table. Sweet potato pies, watermelon cakes, 7up cakes, peach cobbler and more. Friendly faces came by to chat while they ordered. “What is that?” one gentleman asked, pointing to my food.
I had a chicken sandwich, sprite and french fries. Not too “soulful” considering what Scends is most known for. “The chicken wings, jumbo wings, turkey wings, mac and cheese – those are popular.” I was also on a budget, but the food was wonderful and presented timely.
Unfortunately, the pandemic decimated the business, a tired tale Dion began to tell not long after he reopened on March 14, 2018. “Rough since the pandemic. Business was down 50-60%, but we never shut the doors,” said Dion.
As fall and winter approach, the best place to get a hearty meal is to eat at Scends at 635 E. 14th St., San Leandro, California. I’m certain you will walk away glad you ate there after you’ve enjoyed the effortless, sociable and outstanding cuisine Scends provides to the Black community.
Zaire Saunders is the copy editor and reporter for the SF Bay View Community Journalism Program, which is funded by the California State Library.