What: Bay Area Black Restaurant Week
When: May 13-22
Or: Participating restaurants are listed online
The third annual Bay Area Black Restaurant Week (BRW) kicks off Friday, with more than 50 area restaurants serving specials and offering deals. The focus of the 2022 event is expansion, BRW organizers told Nosh, with a plan to pave the way for black-owned businesses that may not have traditional brick locations. and mortar. This means that this year, food trucks, dessert makers and pop-up vendors will also be featured, in addition to the permanent restaurants that usually join them.
Black Restaurant Week began in 2016, when Falayn Ferrell, Warren Luckett and Derek Robinson launched a celebration of flavors across the Diaspora with a handful of restaurants in Houston. Since then, it has expanded to a series of events in cities across the country that take place throughout the year, but its founders stress that dining at black-owned restaurants should be a business. all year.
“This conversation is more than just restaurant week,” Ferrell told Nosh. “We’re asking the community to support restaurants more than this week because in reality we could make this big bang and if you still don’t continue to support them in two months they could still close.”
To that end, BRW’s tagline for the year is “Just a week to go,” another reminder that restaurants are open year-round and BRW is here to support culinary businesses for more than a week. It’s no secret that restaurants need support now more than ever: The restaurant industry is still recovering from the financial effects of the pandemic, and citing statistics from the Independent Restaurant Coalition, Ferrell said that 278,304 U.S. restaurants have requested more than $72.2 billion in aid, but only 101,004 small businesses have received relief funding.
Restaurants that participate in BRW can expect to see an increase in patrons not just during the week, but after all the festivities are over, Ferrell said. While there is a paid option for businesses that includes increased promotion on BRW’s websites and marketing campaigns, restaurants can also join Black Restaurant Week for free.
Another BRW effort is the Feed the Soul Foundation, which Luckett, Ferrell and Robinson founded in 2020 to ensure the financial sustainability of the culinary community. Its core programs include an emergency relief fund to take care of equipment or repair broken glass, as well as virtual webinars to learn and interact with industry experts.
Finally, there is a Restoration Business Development Grant Program, a cohort of professional and financial support for sustainability. The Business Development Cohort is open to individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous, Latina, formerly incarcerated, LGBTQIA+, and seniors.
“We are here because we want to tell them [culinary businesses] that you are not alone in this process,” said Karina Fernandez, Feed the Soul program manager. “Not only are you participating, but we’re giving you a national marketing platform. We want to help you.
The Restaurant Business Development Cohort provides restaurateurs with six months of consulting, a financial stipend, and ongoing training. In the East Bay, Oakland’s famous Trinidadian restaurant, CocoBreeze, has joined the development program, along with 28 other culinary businesses across the country. Another entrant is pop-up and restaurant business Yo Soy Ceviche, an Afro-Latin destination at Oakland’s First Friday events for its homemade Peruvian fusion empanadas and succulent shrimp ceviche.
Yo Soy Ceviche owner Nory Michelle told Nosh that getting extra support for her business felt even more important after a backpacking trip to Peru. “They [in Peru] were really impressed that a woman owned a food business because you still see most of the men in the kitchen.
This focus on diversity at BRW extends to the dining choices on offer at this year’s event. “I think when someone hears ‘Black Restaurant Week,’ they assume it’s going to be food for the soul,” Ferrell said. But while great soul food spots are taking part — for example, Oakland Sistas Wings & Things’ food truck serves up a special box of chicken for $10 — restaurants like Oakland Jamaican/California Kingston 11 are also in. the mix, just like the Italian restaurant in Grand Lake. Marzano. The variety of restaurants on this year’s slate “really speaks to the diversity of people and the diversity of our cuisine,” Ferrell said.
Other dishes to check out this week include CocoBreeze’s Callaloo CooCoo (a trini veggie dish) and brown stew fried red snapper with spicy sautéed vegetables and a sunny side salad with the chef’s spicy pineapple dressing. Ann. Their special BRW dessert, White Chocolate Pineapple, is also a good choice. Meanwhile, Cali Alley in Berkeley has a special BRW sandwich called the “Fat Cat,” a juicy chicken breast sandwich on a bun, not to be missed. (The full list of participants can be found on the BRW site.)
Ferrell said she expects the next ten days to be busy for local restaurants, but that’s a good thing. “Our campaign is only as strong as a community,” Ferrell said. “In fact, we like to see stories where restaurateurs are criticized. It means it worked.
Brandy Collins is a freelance arts and culture writer and self-described professional aunt, born and raised in the Bay Area.