Black Restaurant Week to showcase authenticity
The third annual event, which runs Aug. 12–19, highlights local black-owned restaurants and their contributions to Greater Madison.
For the third straight year, Madison will celebrate Black Restaurant Week, focusing on “authentic food” and promoting local black-owned businesses.
The event, which runs Aug. 12–19, is sponsored by the Black Chamber of Commerce and will feature more than two dozen local food vendors, including 10 brick-and-mortar restaurants, seven food carts, four catering services, and four dessert specialties. A full list of participants can be found at http://www.madisonblackchamber.com/black- restaurant-week/.
This year’s event is also dedicated to the memory of Chef Rod Ladson, Bonefish Grill owner-manager, who died in July.
Black Restaurant Week (BRW) is intended to bring attention to local black-owned businesses and the overall economic impact made in Greater Madison by the 313 member businesses of the Madison Black Chamber. “This is a bold statement that black business owners are an asset to the local Madison community,” explains event organizer Milele Chikasa Anana.
“Like most things in Madison, the [annual] Restaurant Week has not included our black-owned restaurants,” Anana continues. “The Madison Black Chamber wants to call attention to the economic impact that black people have in Madison, both as consumers and as entrepreneurs. Other cities around the country, such as Nashville, Philadelphia, and Dallas, have Black Restaurant Week, but Madison is one of the first.”
Anana notes part of the appeal of BRW is that the food itself is unique. “You would have to go to as far away as Chicago or Memphis to get the kind of fried chicken and fried catfish they serve or the sumptuous green beans or black-eyed peas. That BBQ Joint has the best ribs in town; they’re meaty and flavorful. Buraka offers East African dishes such as lamb stew and lentils. Each restaurant has a different way of cooking collard greens, a staple in the black community, but all the dishes are well seasoned and delicious.”
Savor the flavor
Anana says a number of new additions will be making their BRW debut this year.
Anointed One, specializing in soul food, and Kingdom Restaurant, a fast-food place, are new this year. BRW is also partnering with FUDU, a local startup that offers FUDUworks, a food delivery service for workplaces, so customers can order from participating restaurants using the FUDU app.
Several restaurants will also run specials during the week, according to Anana. “That BBQ Joint is preparing a never-served-before seafood gumbo that customers will love. It’s hard to find gumbo in Madison. They will be at the Central Park Festival on Wednesday and Thursday (Aug. 15–16). Kingdom Restaurant will have jerk chicken and fufu as a special. Anointed One will have a chicken special, while Buraka will offer a sampler plate of Ethiopian food, and The Wing King will have a wing plate.”
Anana notes returning favorite David’s Jamaican Cuisine moved earlier this summer and can now be found at its new location, 5696 Monona Drive.
To use participating caterers, the Black Chamber is asking that customers reserve their office parties, birthdays, reunions, and holiday parties with these caterers during Black Restaurant Week. The dessert specialties can be used as a separate caterer for any occasion or event.
“Our restaurants take pride in authentic food, original recipes, and serving vegetables along with the entrée,” says Anana. “Although restaurants like Anointed One, McGee’s Chicken, That BBQ Joint, and George’s Chicken & Fish offer quick take outs, customers can get a side of collard greens, green beans, mac and cheese, spaghetti, candied yams, and black-eyed peas. In other words, you can get more than a meat sandwich and French fries. These restaurants also offer favorite desserts like peach cobbler and sweet potato pie, all handmade on the premises.”
One element that will be missing from this year’s BRW is the popular walking soul food tour; however, Anana says BRW will pick it up again next year.
Courting new customers
Madison has responded heartily to BRW, explains Anana, in that people in Madison patronize these restaurants all year long. “The business owners are quite happy that old and new customers come in to try out their dishes. During BRW, participating black-owned restaurants get customers who probably didn’t have these restaurants top of mind. Hopefully these first-time customers will become regular customers.”
According to Anana, BRW organizers will begin collecting data from the event for the first time this year. “Anecdotally, the owners all tell us that they noticed an increase in sales and traffic during BRW,” Anana says, but now the Black Chamber hopes to have the numbers to back those claims up.
“Black Restaurant Week is yet another example of how the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce supports black businesses,” adds Camille Carter, president of the Black Chamber. “We look forward to showcasing the plethora of authentic recipes created by black entrepreneurs for the community.”
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