Get Excited for Black Restaurant Week in Atlanta
“Everything happening in the Black community, no matter how unfortunate, has brought beautiful Black restaurants to light.”
Make no mistake that 2020 has been a doozy. But there are silver linings, if you search for them. After the outpouring support following the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, many -- but not all -- Black-owned restaurants have thankfully been able to mitigate the steep financial hardships of the pandemic.
And the fourth annual Black Restaurant Week comes just at the right time to keep that momentum going. Running from Friday, September 4 through Sunday, September 13, the food extravaganza is expected to lure Atlantans into the doors of the city’s best Black-owned restaurants, from Fin & Feathers to Cafe Songhai.
“Black businesses have a really good opportunity to do extremely well,” says Pinky Cole, the founder and CEO of Slutty Vegan. “Not just through Black Restaurant Week, but in this time -- through COVID, protesting, everything. We are at the forefront of commerce. You see Black-owned businesses being supported more than ever before.”
In addition to fun activities like filling a Black restaurant BINGO sheet and attending BRW-held events, it’s not uncommon for special menus to pop up at your favorite Black-owned eateries. While the sound of special dishes and pocket-friendly meals are admittedly exciting, the best thing about Black Restaurant Week is its ability to encourage people to explore the plethora of Black-owned businesses in their area.
Since 2017, the decentralized food festival has typically brought in financial support for Atlanta’s diverse array of Black eating establishments. But, don’t be mistaken. Black Restaurant Week isn’t merely a 10-day charity event in major cities across the country -- it’s a massive celebration of local, American, and Afrocentric cuisines. While you can peep the entire list of participating Black Restaurant Week restaurants below, we have highlighted a few of our favorites around town and asked them what this yearly event means for their businesses.
Nestled into a small Clairmont Road strip alongside restaurants like The Po’Boy Shop and Community Q BBQ, Ms. Icey’s Kitchen is a staple for both brunch and contemporary southern Caribbean food. For a restaurant that’s so highly regarded for its dine-in experience, Ms. Icey’s Kitchen has been able to maintain its success throughout the pandemic, even when takeout was the only safe option for eating out. At the conclusion of a trying summer and year overall, the Black-owned establishment is still standing strong, and it’s really looking forward to Black Restaurant Week.
“This is our third year taking part,” says Tasha Cyril, Ms. Icey Kitchen’s co-owner and director of operations. “[COVID-19] was a big hit for sure -- there’s no denying that. We were known heavily for our brunch, and usually people don’t want to take brunch to-go because it doesn’t transport well.”
However, things ironically turned around for the restaurant following Atlanta’s historic response to the murder of George Floyd. “It was a gift and a curse when the Black Lives Matter protests started. That’s actually when business picked up for us because everyone kind of banded around Black businesses,” Cyril says. “We got a lot of marketing through those platforms. It made such a big impact on the business that we were able to do six weeks into the pandemic.”
She praises other local Black-owned restaurants like Slim & Husky’s (one of her favorites) and Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen (which she is excited to try), and marvels at the serendipity of this year’s Black Restaurant Week.
“The timing of it is even more important now than before because a lot of Black businesses, and restaurants in particular, are getting a lot of exposure,” she says. “I know chefs that weren’t aware that there was a Black Restaurant Week, so again, everything happening in the Black community, no matter how unfortunate, has brought beautiful Black restaurants to light.”
With two booming locations, Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks has taken Atlanta’s food scene by storm. It boasts a cheesesteak that was recognized as one the top 10 best sandwiches at the 2018 World Food Championships, and you’re lucky if you don’t have to brave one of its characteristically long lines when visiting. Even with a minor setback from structural damages during the Atlanta protests, Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks continues to be an unstoppable force.
“The city of Atlanta and the community has been standing behind me throughout everything that I’ve been through, even with the George Floyd protests when my windows were broken,” says founder and CEO D. Hayes. “As a Black entrepreneurs, we need to stick together and empower each other right now because we’re in a time where we need each other more than ever. It starts with us first.”
For Hayes, running a Black-owned business in Atlanta isn’t complete without serving his community. “During the pandemic, I started off feeding the frontline workers at more than 40 hospitals, and then I did the give back with Slutty Vegan for Rayshard Brooks’ family.” he explains. “With COVID, it’s been about empowering and helping others for me. I’m using the platform that Atlanta gave me, and I’mma have its back throughout everything.”
Like Cyril, Hayes is excited to simply learn about new Black restaurants and businesses in his neighborhood. “Two miles down the road, there might be another Black-owned business that you don’t know exists,” he says. “But now you’ll know.”
How to order: Open for takeout only through Ritual.
Another one of the city’s Black-owned restaurants known for having far-reaching lines, Slutty Vegan is having an outstanding year of its own. The most popping plant-based burger joint has grown so much that it has been able to expand to a new location -- with still one more to go -- during a pandemic. For those looking to get their first taste of vegan and plant-based alternatives, go ahead and file into the line at your nearest Slutty Vegan.
“I’m excited about Black Restaurant Week -- I’ve never experienced it,” says Pinky Cole, the founder and CEO of Slutty Vegan. “Finally being able to just experience it is pretty cool. I’m looking forward to seeing the deals other restaurants have so that I can try some new places that I’ve never been.”
“Now is the best time in America to be a Black woman and to have a Black business, for so many reasons,” Cole declares. “I just hope that Black businesses really take advantage of this opportunity -- an opportunity that we haven’t gotten for as long as I’ve had life on this earth. You’ve gotta take it and run with it.”
How to order: Walk-up orders at all the locations, where masks and social distancing are strictly enforced.
Full list of participating Atlanta restaurants: A Taste of the Island, Apt 4B, BQE Restaurant & Lounge, Chef La's Fish Fry, Chicago's Nancy's Pizza, Escobar Restaurant and Tapas, Fin & Feathers, Harold's Chicken & Ice Bar, Josephine Lounge, Member’s Only, Ms. Icey’s Kitchen, The Sleepy Potato, Parlor Den, Paschal's Restaurant, Supreme Burger, Taste Buddz ATL, and Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours.
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