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Da Flava Unit, a North Liberty food truck, has expanded its business and opened inside Iowa City Marketplace next to Marcus Sycamore Cinema as one of the mall’s newest tenants. Owners Tony and Dee Brown said they didn’t anticipate opening a permanent location when they launched their business several months ago, but viewing an advertisement made them realize the space was suited to their needs. They pivoted from their initial plan of owning a fleet of food trucks and a stationary food truck restaurant. Now the couple hopes the restaurant will make even more Corridor residents aware of its food, a menu that includes Caribbean-style jerk chicken, street tacos, hibachi fried rice, burgers, French fry baskets and more. A Caribbean soul food Sunday meal incorporates soul food with Caribbean dishes in a unique style customers won’t find elsewhere, the owners said. They also cater and make food for events such as University of Iowa football games, where they sell the Iowa Dog, a quarter pound beef hot dog with pulled pork, barbecue sauce, crispy onions and baked beans on the side. Right now, it’s just the two of them managing the food truck and standalone Iowa City restaurant. “We have family recipes that we want to keep secret,” said Ms. Brown. “We have different varieties of sauces we want to keep secret. Nobody can make macaroni and cheese like me and nobody can make jerk chicken like him.” The approach they take is inspired by their background and lifelong love of food. Mr. Brown, born in Belize, lived in Chicago with Ms. Brown until 2003, when they moved to Iowa because they decided they needed a change of environment as they noticed neighborhoods in Chicago becoming more dangerous. “Raising young black men, we didn’t want to put them in harm's way,” she said. “We wanted a strong educational system for them and we didn’t want to be too far from home. And violence is little to none compared to what we were used to. “I’m grateful we took that chance,” she added. “Everybody we met since being here has been nothing but supportive and embraced us as a family unit.” Da Flava Unit names different menu items off of music icons such as Queen Latifah, Snoop Dogg and the Beastie Boys. They said they try to make the restaurant’s atmosphere upbeat and fun, often playing hip-hop music, but always tailoring the music based on the customers in the restaurant. Ms. Brown said she hopes customers will learn to appreciate real hip-hop while they order and eat. The outside of the restaurant is without signage for the time being. That problem is being rectified by the Multicultural Development Center of Iowa (MDC Iowa), a nonprofit that helps multicultural small businesses grow. They will help Da Flava Unit create outside signage, posters and neon lights. Mr. and Ms. Brown were graduates of the nonprofit’s 2022 business incubator accelerator program. MDC Iowa has also taught the owners how to make their own merchandise, helping the couple slowly venture into marketing initiatives and alternative streams of income. “You can’t have hip-hop without streetwear,” she said.