I don’t know about you, but when I travel, I make a point to hunt for Black-owned businesses that I may want to stop at while I’m in a new city. Especially restaurants. Mainly to support but partly because I know I can expect a maybe some spice and definitely some flavour.
But Black Restaurant Week may have given me an excuse to plan a trip completely dedicated to food in plenty of cities in the States.
BRW started in Houston in 2016 and features not just a special menu at Black-owned restaurants around the city, but also events throughout the week to highlight caterers, bartenders and food trucks as well. It’s a full-fledged culinary showcase that now touches every coast in America.
Warren Luckett, a wine distributor and wanted to create something that would highlight Black restaurants, so he came together with co-founders Derek Robinson Falayn Ferrell to make the idea a reality.
Over the years they’ve grown and had more restaurants participating. In Houston they went from about 15-20 establishments in BRW’s first year, and now in their fourth year 37 have joined the roster.
While I was on a press trip in Philly, I got the chance to try the BRW menu at Bookers, a restaurant named after Booker Wright, a Black waiter spoke up about what it was like serving in a whites-only restaurant in Mississippi in the 1960s.
I had a three-course meal — a crawfish tartlet, beef short rib and lavender ice cream on a cornmeal cookie. I had quite a happy belly by the end of the night.
Co-founder Falayn says each city has its own local vibe that creates a unique experience. Philly, for example, has a cool scene of younger chefs doing innovative things and a very connected culinary community. Whereas some other cities are a little less connected and lacking a platform to connect Black people in the restaurant industry. Not only has BRW been an opportunity for diners to explore the scene, but it’s been a link for people in the field.
“In the cities we go to, the Black culinary community, they don’t have a platform like this to really showcase themselves on a quality level to the greater community,” Falayn says. “So they love the project for that. And also … it gives them a chance to actually connect with other professionals within the community.”
Then next time you’re planning a trip around the U.S. take a look at see if BRW is on and discover a new Black culinary scene, and have your stomach taken care of in the process.