Welcome to a little taste of ‘Haven’

By Chris Hess
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

“It’s not fast food, it’s good food fast.”

Good food fast...NOT fast food. (Staff photo by Chris Hess)

That is the motto of Tasty Haven, a soul food restaurant at 518 E. Trinity Ave. in Durham, owned and operated by Shelby Wilson.

Most customers who walk in seem to know Wilson on a first-name basis.

“I’ve been friends with Shelby for about 20 years,” said James Brothers, patron and head of transportation for N.C. Central University. “I’ve been coming since the first day it opened.”

Tasty Haven is a bit of a hole in the wall restaurant, with a family feel that opened October 6, 2006.

“We use Grandma’s secret recipes,” said Wilson. [Grandma is Louise Arnetta Peay.] “All five of my children help up here. My daughter runs the cash register.”

Tasty Haven has quite a few items on the menu that it hangs its hat on. Wilson takes pride in the fact that he uses only fresh, homemade local vegetables.

“We have fresh collards, yams and cabbage that we get from the Farmers Market and King’s Red and White,” said Wilson. “Vegetables are the key.”

Another popular item is the Philly Steak and Cheese.

“It’s the real Philly Cheesesteak. It’s one of our specialties,” said Wilson, a native of Philadelphia. “But the turkey wings are getting really popular.” said Wilson. At least three customers in about ten minutes ordered the turkey wings.

They've got sorbet too. (Staff photo by Chris Hess)

Tasty Haven is also the home of Wilson’s Water Ice, a sorbet dessert that comes in about 20 different flavors, including passion fruit, mango, strawberry and melon-ball. Wilson is converting the right-hand side of his restaurant into a portion that only serves Wilson’s Water Ice.

His sorbet carts are frequently seen around downtown Durham in the summer.

Wilson took a big risk in opening up Tasty Haven. He moved to Durham in 1989 because his life in Philadelphia wasn’t going the way he planned. “I thought I was coming here to change, but I didn’t,” said Wilson.

“In 1991, I was on drugs real bad,” said Wilson. “I was selling and getting high.”

Wilson credits his grandmother, wife and mother-in-law for helping him get back on track. “They play a big part in why I’m successful,” said Wilson.

Wilson got clean in 1993 and then began working for Brown Brothers Plumbing. “I worked for Brown Brothers for ten years, and then I used my 401(k) money to open this place,” said Wilson.

Not only does Tasty Haven serve out of the restaurant, they also cater all throughout Durham. Tasty haven has catered for NCCU football games, the Bimbe festival and Apple Chill.

Tasty haven also gives 10% discounts to NCCU students, police officers, firefighters and anyone who works in criminal justice.

Wilson is looking to the future with Tasty Haven. “I’m hoping to open another establishment in the next year, along with a mobile unit,” said Wilson.

Wilson is grateful for the opportunity to run his own restaurant.

“I come from nowhere to somewhere…and it’s only by the grace of God that I have the opportunity to be a business owner.”